The Bush Administration has failed to enforce violations of the Clean Act.  Not content to simply water down the Act with the Clear Skies Initiative, the Administration is now giving polluters a free pass.

ENS Five East coast states [PA, NY, CT, MD and NJ] today filed a federal lawsuit, charging that the corporate owners of three large coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania have violated the Clean Air Act.  Some of the plants have been operating since the 1950s with inadequate air pollution controls, the lawsuit charges.

These three plants have upgraded their capacity, yet failed to install best available technologies to control the emissions as required by the New Source Review provision in the Clean Air Act.  The EPA was well aware of these violations, but failed to act.

Extensive documentation turned over to the states by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that the power plant owners violated the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act, the attorneys general say.

Established in 1977, the New Source Review program requires that an air pollution source, such as a power plant or factory, must install the best pollution control equipment available when it builds a new facility or modifies an existing facility in a way that increases emissions.

Despite having developed cases against the three power plants for ongoing Clean Air Act violations, the federal government has not brought enforcement actions.

Part of the impetuous to file against the owner’s of the plants came from last week’s ruling by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals on a case brought against the Administration’s Clear Skies Initiative.  Oddly enough, both Industry and Environmentalists claimed victory in that case.

NYT Representatives of the electric power industry, which had strongly supported the new regulations, hailed the ruling as a victory. The new rules require owners of older plants to upgrade emission-control equipment to standards for new plants only if they make substantial improvements. Plant owners and the E.P.A. have consistently disagreed over how to differentiate between routine maintenance and large-scale upgrades.


Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, said in an interview that the ruling was “a win for us.” Echoing a view expressed by environmental groups who were also involved in the case, Mr. Spitzer added: “Anybody who cares about the quality of air can view the case a victory for enforcement and continued aggressive action to limit the violations of the Clean Air Act by power companies.”


David McIntosh, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the challengers, said, “The polluter-friendly loopholes that the court struck down would have led to more asthma attacks, more hospitalizations and more sick days.”

Apparently the differences in opinion stem from contrasting interpretations of the highly technical ruling.  This lawsuit against Allegheny Energy, the owner’s of the PA plants, should be a test case for the Appeals Court decision.

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