Breaking Promise, EPA Will Drop Cases Against Polluting Power Plants

The U.S. EPA announced yesterday that it will drop investigations into 50 power plants accused of violating the federal Clean Air Act. Enviros and agency watchdogs warned about the possibility of such a shift when the Bush administration rolled back the act’s New Source Review rules — but agency officials promised it would never happen. So much for that; now, lawyers for the EPA say, the cases will be reviewed under the less stringent rules that take effect next month, rather than those that were in place at the time the investigations began. The change grew out of a recommendation by Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force, which urged the government to heed complaints about environmental enforcement made by the utility industry, one of the biggest donors to President Bush. The Bush administration says it is dropping the investigations to make air-quality improvements cost-effective.