14 August 2002 20:48 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A package of industry-supported changes to the New Source Review (NSR) air pollution control program is under final review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), CNI learned Wednesday.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered the proposed reforms to regulatory review officials at OMB for clearance Tuesday, meaning a final rule likely will be published by mid-November at the latest.
OMB has 90 days to review the EPA rule and suggest any changes.
But an industry source said the proposed NSR reforms already have undergone extensive public comment and scrutiny by other federal agencies since they were first proposed by the Clinton administration in 1996.
As a result, he said the White House could sign off on the package fairly quickly and send it back to the EPA for administrator Christie Whitman's signature and publication in the Federal Register.
The NSR provisions of the Clean Air Act require industrial facilities to install expensive new pollution controls whenever they make changes to a plant that increases overall emissions.
But industry groups have argued that the current provisions are so cumbersome they have discouraged capacity expansion, energy efficiency and other types of plant upgrade projects.
In proposing the reforms again on 13 June, the Bush administration said the changes are designed to give facilities more flexibility to make modifications without triggering the NSR requirements.
But environmental activists and many Democrats on Capitol Hill have portrayed the reforms as a roll back of the Clean Air Act that will result in more air pollution.
Senator John Edwards (Democrat-North Carolina) has said he will try to block implementation of the changes through legislation, such as through an amendment in EPA's fiscal 2003 appropriation bill.
As outlined by EPA in June, the proposed NSR reform plan includes five major changes:
An EPA spokesman said the text of the package sent to OMB would not be released until the review is complete and the final rule is signed and published.
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