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September 26, 2005
Volume 83, Number 39
p. 12


Industry: Relax Federal Laws

Trade group says exemptions will speed recovery; environmentalists are leery

Cheryl Hogue

Jack N. Gerard ACC PHOTO


The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a chemical industry trade group, is asking the White House to loosen a host of federal regulations to help revitalize chemical plants damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

ACC has asked the Bush Administration to temporarily relax a number of clean air and hazardous waste regulations in the Gulf Coast disaster zone so chemical plants can more easily clean up and restart their operations. ACC is also seeking tax changes, including a new credit for companies that retain employees in the storm-ravaged areas.

In addition, ACC is urging the government to take a raft of actions to curb consumption of natural gas, a key feedstock for the chemical industry. Jack N. Gerard, president and CEO of ACC, wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to President George W. Bush, "Our facilities report shortages, supply interruptions, and extremely high prices [of natural gas] as a result of the storm."

ACC's energy recommendations include providing immediate federal assistance to natural gas processing plants, lifting restrictions on drilling, and temporarily suspending acid rain and some nitrogen oxide limits so electricity generators can burn more coal and less natural gas.

John Walke, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says ACC's requests are based on the same deregulatory agenda the group was pursuing before Katrina struck. He says industry has "seized on a tragedy" to promote its economic self-interest.

Separately, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, introduced legislation (S. 1711) on Sept. 15 that would allow EPA to waive or modify federal environmental requirements in the hurricane-ravaged area for up to 18 months.

The bill "could become a blank check for big polluters," says Frank O'Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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