01 August 2002 18:04 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A group of more than 40 mostly Democratic US senators on Thursday called the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed changes to new source review (NSR) air pollution enforcement "extremely troubling" and said the changes would likely increase harmful emissions.
The initiative in the Senate follows a move earlier this week by some 33 members of the House of Representatives who also are asking EPA to revise or rescind the proposed NSR changes.
In the Senate action today, John Edwards (Democrat-North Carolina), Joe Lieberman (Democrat-Connecticut) and James Jeffords (Independent-Vermont) are leading opposition to the Bush administration plan to give industrial facilities more leeway to modernise without having to install expensive new pollution-control equipment.
"We see no reason to believe that the proposed changes adequately protect air quality," said 44 senators in a letter to EPA administration Christie Whitman. "We have serious concerns that the changes could allow more air pollution - causing more asthma, more heart and lung problems and more premature deaths."
The senators sought a commitment from the EPA administrator to enforce the Clean Air Act.
EPA on 13 June proposed changes to the NSR program that would relax requirements for older industrial facilities to install modern pollution-control systems when plants are renovated.
In their letter, the senators noted that the "specific changes proposed have not been subject to careful study and full public comment," which they said prompts serious concern about the health consequences of the modified rules.
"We ask therefore that before finalising any of these changes, EPA conduct a rigorous analysis of the air pollution and public health impacts of the proposed rule changes and give the public full opportunity to comment on these changes," the senators said.
"In the meantime, we ask your continued commitment to enforce the Clean Air Act as written," the letter concluded.
The NSR program has been criticised by industry, which maintains it prevents them from modernising plants. EPA has said its proposed reforms are designed to give companies more flexibility in making plant modifications without triggering the NSR requirements.
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