December 24, 2002

DECEMBER 31, 2002


Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe today joined eight other State attorneys general from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States in filing a federal lawsuit against the Bush Administration for endangering air quality by gutting a critical component of the federal Clean Air Act.

The lawsuit alleges that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has exceeded its authority and violated Congressional intent by enacting regulations that weaken the Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1970. These new regulations propose to significantly alter the "New Source Review" requirements previously imposed under the Clean Air Act, which require that industrial plants add modern air pollution controls when they are upgraded or modified.

"I find it incredible that we would have to resort to a lawsuit to prevent the Bush Administration from gutting the Clean Air Act. Our national government should be looking out for the health interests of American people, rather than the corporate financial interests of dirty power plants," Rowe stated.

The nine attorneys general said that this major weakening of the Clean Air Act will further degrade air quality in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, regions already struggling with poor air caused in significant part by industrial pollution carried into the region on prevailing winds.

"The Clean Air Act benefits Maine people most because we are located at the end of our nation's "air pollution tailpipe." We already have the highest adult asthma rate in the nation. If the Bush Administration is successful in its efforts to significantly weaken this important law, Maine people will clearly be the biggest losers."

These regulatory changes, which had been in the works for months, were announced by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman on November 22, 2002 - the Friday before Thanksgiving - and were adopted by publication in the Federal Register today - New Years Eve. The Attorneys General lawsuit was filed today, immediately upon the adoption of these changes, in federal court in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In the suit, the Attorneys General from Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont ask the court to invalidate the new regulations as being inconsistent with the federal Clean Air Act. The Attorneys General believe that these changes are so sweeping and damaging that the EPA cannot make them without Congressional approval. The suit alleges that the rollbacks violate both the Clean Air Act itself and the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets forth the process government agencies must follow to promulgate regulations.

The new regulations promulgated by the Bush Administration would exempt up to 50 percent of industrial facilities, including coal-fired power plants, from 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 federal Energy Task Force, chaired by Vice President Cheney, first proposed the lifting of the New Source Review requirements in May 2001. A year later, EPA submitted its report to the President announcing that it would "reform" its New Source Review regulations. While the Bush Administration claims these changes are similar to those considered by the EPA in 1996, they are more damaging to the environment. Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner told Congress that EPA abandoned the 1996 draft proposals because of their adverse environmental impact.