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AIR POLLUTION DEBATE HEATS UP
Congress, President expected to push for new legislation
This month, Congress and the Bush Administration are expected to begin a debate that may profoundly impact on U.S. air pollution.
The discussion in Congress begins this week as Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) and staff hold a series of closed-door meetings with industry representatives, utilities, citizen groups, and state officials to discuss his bill to cut air pollution from electric utilities.
The legislation would toughen today's emissions standards for nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and mercury by 75 to 90%, depending on the pollutant. He would also cut carbon dioxide to 1990 levels.
Later in the month, EPA is expected to propose new air pollution legislation of its own. Like Jeffords' bill, this legislation will be directed to power plant emissions, EPA head Christine Todd Whitman says. However, other industrial sectors, including chemical companies, are lobbying to be included in any Bush proposal to reform the Clean Air Act.
The Bush Administration proposal would cover three of the Jeffords' bill pollutants--CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas, is out.
Emissions levels under consideration by EPA have not been made public or final, but rumors are flying. For instance, a proposal leaked to a utility group set hearts pounding there a few weeks ago. Although weaker than Jeffords' bill, the proposal disappointed utilities by requiring significant emissions reductions for several hundred coal-fired power plants that are operating today with few emissions controls.
Driving the push for new legislation are concerns by Jeffords and others that power plant emissions are too high. Opposite fears by others in Congress, the Bush Administration, and utilities are that current Clean Air Act provisions are curbing electricity production and hurting utilities by requiring installation of modern pollution control equipment when process changes increase emissions.
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