08 August 2002 17:52 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A coalition of industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council (ACC), moved Thursday to counter charges that New Source Review (NSR) reforms by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) represent a "rollback" of clean air rules.
"We disagree with the characterisation of the environmental impact of the NSR reform package," 28 industry groups said in a letter to members of the US Senate. "We believe that the proposed changes to the NSR program, in fact, will result in cleaner air and in increased energy efficiency."
The industry letter came in response to a 1 August letter from 44 senators to EPA administrator Christie Whitman, which charged the reforms announced by the agency in June "appear likely to increase pollution levels."
Senators John Edwards (Democrat-North Carolina), Joseph Lieberman (Democrat-Connecticut), and James Jeffords (Independent-Vermont) have been mobilising Senate opposition to EPA's plan to give utilities and manufacturers more leeway to modernise plants without having to install expensive new pollution controls.
The NSR program has been criticised by industry groups for discouraging projects that would expand capacity or upgrade energy efficiency at older plants.
Senate Democrats and environmental groups contend the proposed NSR revisions would allow more air pollution and lead to health problems.
But the industry groups said EPA's reforms will "provide incentives for industry to undertake pollution control and prevention projects. The rule modifies cumbersome regulations, thereby allowing facilities to install more energy/cost efficient and less polluting technology."
The coalition added: "We are concerned that there appears to be an effort to stall the NSR reform process despite wide agreement that the current program is seriously flawed. A delay at this point in the process would be counterproductive because it would continue to discourage facilities from making modifications and undertaking projects that would reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency."
Although Democrats and environmental activists have been highly critical of the reforms, five of the eight changes were proposed by the Clinton administration in 1996.
"They are simply now ready to be implemented," said Jeffrey Marks, director of air quality at the National Association of Manufacturers. "They already have been through the rulemaking process and will result in immediate improvements in environmental quality and energy use."
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