EPA To Ease Coal Plant Rules, Lawsuits

The Bush administration has decided to shift from a Clinton-era clear air enforcement initiative that led to dozens of lawsuits against aging coal-fired power plants, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The Bush administration has decided to shift from a Clinton-era clear air enforcement initiative that led to dozens of lawsuits against aging coal-fired power plants, The Washington Post reported Monday.

According to Environment Protection Agency officials, the administration plans to unveil new rules that would offer incentives for reductions in toxic emissions without threatening legal action against plant operators, the newspaper said.

The Post said the administration wanted to encourage the plants to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions, and is seeking legislation to force cuts in pollution at plants that don’t voluntarily cooperate.

EPA and White House officials said the decision came after nearly a year of debate and attempts to balance the need to protect the environment and the economy, the newspaper said.

“The earlier enforcement actions have created a realm of ambiguity that makes it difficult for these folks in the utility industry to make decisions on long-term capital investments,” a White House official said.

The shift will leave in limbo dozens of lawsuits brought by the Justice Department under the Clean Air Act, the Post said.

The EPA has been working on an overhaul of the legislation’s so-called New Source Review rules, the target of intense lobbying by both electric utilities and environmental activists.

The rules, which were strictly enforced by the Clinton administration, require electric power plants, oil refineries and other industrial plants to install expensive air pollution equipment when they make significant modifications or repairs. Currently the federal government can sue the utilities if they do not agree to anti-pollution upgrades.

The industry and Bush administration claim the regulations prevent more refineries and power plants from being built or expanded, reducing available energy supplies. Environmentalists believe the overhaul of the rules will result in a partial repeal of the 1970 Clean Air Act, leaving loopholes that will let utilities pollute more with fewer penalties.

A spokeswoman for the EPA was not available for comment.

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News Service: Reuters

URL: http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/03/19/clean.air.reut/index.html