December 24, 2002

DECEMBER 31, 2002

NY - Marc Violette, 518-473-5525
CT - Maura Fitzgerald, 860 808 5324
ME - AG G. Steven Rowe, 207 822 0260
MD- Sean Caine, 410 576 6357
MA - Sarah Nathan, 617 727 2543
NH - Jennifer Patterson, 603 271 3679
NJ - Carol Gaskill, 609 292 4791
RI - Judy Kearns, 401 274 4400
VT - Erick Titrud, 802 828 5518

Nine states today filed a lawsuit challenging new Bush Administration regulations that gut a key provision of the federal Clean Air Act. The Administration's action represents the first major weakening of the landmark federal environmental law since it was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

The changes initiated by the Bush Administration would exempt thousands of industrial air pollution sources, including coal-fired power plants, from the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act. New Source Review requires power plants and other industrial facilities to add modern air pollution controls to smokestacks when the facilities are upgraded or modified and substantially increase air pollution.

New Source Review is the foundation of a series of lawsuits brought by the states, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups in 1999, 2000 and 2001 against dozens of old coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources.

From its first days in office, the Bush Administration has criticized New Source Review and sought to undermine its implementation, despite the prior filing of the clean air lawsuits by the federal government and despite the conclusion of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's Department of Justice that the New Source Review lawsuits are legally sound.

By adopting new regulations that will lead to dirtier air, the Bush Administration is violating the Clean Air Act. Congress passed the Clean Air Act intending that the Environmental Protection Agency use its powers to sharply reduce air pollution across the nation. Since 1970, successive Democratic and Republican administrations have either strengthened the Clean Air Act or left it untouched. The Bush Administration is the first in three decades to attempt deliberately to gut key components of the Clean Air Act.

The changes made today are particularly damaging because, unlike the draft version of the regulations, the Bush Administration has made the new rules effectively mandatory for all states, potentially undermining any state's ability to adopt stronger clean air protections. Also, the final regulations give facilities -- including those that EPA and the states accuse of violating the law -- significant unmonitored discretion to determine when the law applies.