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March 17, 2006

AIR POLLUTION

EPA Regulation Is Overturned

Federal court says rule easing emission requirements violates Clean Air Act

Cheryl Hogue

A federal court on March 17 overturned a Bush Administration rule that eases some air pollution requirements for chemical companies, refineries, and power plants.

The 2003 rule, backed by industry, including chemical manufacturers, was one of the biggest changes the Bush Administration has made to federal air pollution policy. The regulation would have made it easier for companies to upgrade older facilities without installing modern air pollution controls. The rule never took effect due to legal challenges (C&EN, Jan. 5, 2004, page 12).

The rule violates the Clean Air Act, said a three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

At issue is the new source review provision of the Clean Air Act. This part of the law requires the installation of modern pollution controls when renovations to plants built before 1970 increase emissions.

The 2003 rule would have allowed companies to modify plants???and increase pollution???without adding emissions controls if the cost of the changes did not exceed 20% of the replacement value of the entire industrial unit (C&EN, Sept. 1, 2003, page 7).

The court found that under the Clean Air Act, ???only physical changes that do not result in emissions increases are excused??? from the law???s requirements on new source review.

The American Chemistry Council and other industry groups supported the regulation, saying new source review requirements have kept them from modernizing plants.

A number of states and environmental groups opposed the rule, saying it would have allowed companies to rebuild aging facilities and increase emissions without government review.

???This is a victory for public health,??? said Howard Fox, an attorney at Earthjustice, which represented six groups in the case. ???It makes no sense to allow huge multi-multi-million-dollar projects that drastically increase air pollution without installing up-to-date pollution controls or even notifying nearby residents.???

ACC officials said they were still studying the decision at C&EN deadline time and could offer no comments.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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