Banner: Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler
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For Immediate Release
November 22, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

CURRAN, EIGHT OTHER AGs TO SUE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
FOR WEAKENING CLEAN AIR ACT

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that he is joining eight other State Attorneys General in filing a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for endangering air quality by weakening a critical component of the Clean Air Act.

Changes in the Act announced today by the Bush Administration would allow many industrial air pollution sources, including coal-fired power plants, to escape review under the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act. New Source Review requires that industrial plants add modern air pollution controls when they are upgraded or modified.

The Attorneys General said that this major weakening of the Act will further degrade air quality in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, which currently struggle with dirty air caused in significant part by industrial pollution carried into the region on prevailing winds.

"Maryland will take whatever action necessary to ensure that any changes to the existing Clean Air Act NSR program do not put the health of our citizens or the Chesapeake Bay at greater risk," Attorney General Curran said.
The lawsuit will allege that EPA is exceeding its authority and violating Congressional intent by enacting rules that weaken the Clean Air Act. When Congress passed the Act in 1970, its intention was to improve the environment and protect public health by lowering levels of pollution. The new rules announced today by EPA would allow air pollution levels to rise.

Currently, approximately 90 percent of Maryland residents live in non-attainment areas and breathe air in violation of the health standard for ozone. Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the transport of ozone into Maryland found that 11 jurisdictions outside of Maryland’s state borders significantly contribute to unhealthy ozone concentrations here.

In 1999, Curran and seven other state Attorneys General joined the federal government in suing numerous coal-burning power plants–the nation’s largest source of emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide–for violations of the existing New Source Review. These emissions contribute to a number of environmental problems including ground level ozone (the primary component of urban smog), fine particulate matter (which causes respiratory diseases and even premature mortality), and acid rain (which damages lakes, streams and forests).

The following elements of the new rules are among those likely to be challenged by the state Attorneys General lawsuit:

Adoption of a "clean unit" exclusion. The EPA will create a fifteen-year New Source Review exemption for a facility that has installed modern pollution controls in the past ten years. This could give a facility that installed technology that was not even state-of-the-art many years ago a blanket exemption for emissions increases well into the future.

Revised approach for calculating baseline emissions. EPA would allow facilities to set their "baseline" emission levels at the average of their highest two years of pollution out of the last ten years. Thus, polluters could significantly increase their emissions over current levels without installing pollution controls.

Plant-wide applicability limits. EPA will exempt polluters from New Source Review if they agree to a cap on their air pollution. The cap could be set higher than the facility’s current emissions, even though the Clean Air Act intended air pollution to decrease.

The lawsuit will be filed in federal court in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The case will be filed when the regulations are published in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly.

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