19 August 2002 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]A coalition of industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, moved last week to counter Democratic senators' charges that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed New Source Review (NSR) reforms are a "rollback" of clean air rules.
"We disagree with the characterization 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 comes in response to an August 1 letter from 44 senators to EPA administrator Christie Whitman, which charged that the reforms an-nounced by the agency in June "appear likely to increase pollution levels."
Sens. John Edwards (D-N.C.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), and James Jef-fords (I-Vt.) have been mobilizing Senate opposition to EPA's plan to give utilities and manufacturers more leeway to modernize plants without having to install expensive new pollution controls.
The NSR program has been criticized 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.
However, the industry groups say 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 adds: "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," says Jeffrey Marks, director of air quality at the National Association of Manufacturers. "They have already been through the rulemaking process and will result in immediate improvements in environmental quality and energy use."
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.