Bush Administration Relaxes Clean Air Act Rules

In an expected but nonetheless bitter blow to environmentalists, the Bush administration yesterday rolled back the New Source Review rules of the Clean Air Act. Under those rules, utilities were required to install state-of-the-art pollution controls when they upgraded their facilities. Now, those rules will be relaxed for the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and factories — some 17,000 of them. That’s music to the ears of utility companies, which stand to save hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars from the rule change. Advocates of the rollback say it will improve the affordability, reliability, and safety of the nation’s electricity supply; critics call it an industry giveaway and say it will undermine efforts to crack down on industrial polluters. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer — one of 14 attorneys general already involved in lawsuits against other federal clean-air rollbacks — said he will challenge the rule change in court.

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