Senators Criticize President's Clean Air Proposal

Earthjustice commends Senators for efforts to protect public health


Sandra Schubert, Ken Goldman

Earthjustice today applauded forty-four US Senators who called President Bush’s recommended changes to the Clean Air Act “extremely troubling” and called on him to strengthen clean air protections and enforce the Clean Air Act. In mid-June, the administration announced its plans for significantly weakening New Source Review, a Clean Air Act program that requires old facilities to modernize their pollution controls. These changes have faced criticism from environmental and public health groups, state and local air pollution control officials, and members of Congress.

“The administration has proposed changes that would eviscerate the New Source Review program, needlessly sentencing thousands of people to asthma, respiratory disease, cancer, and other adverse health effects, and could undercut ongoing enforcement activities,” said Sandra Schubert, legislative counsel for Earthjustice. “The strong stand taken by the Senate sends a clear signal to the administration that increased pollution will not be tolerated.”

“On their face, many of these changes to NSR — for example, giving factories greater leeway to choose how their pollution is measured — appear likely to increase pollution levels,” said the Senators in a letter to delivered to the President this morning. “Yet as Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead admitted at a recent hearing, EPA plans to make these changes without having conducted a full analysis of their impact on air quality and public health, and without providing a full opportunity for public notice and comment on the changes EPA is now proposing.”

The New Source Review program requires industrial facilities – such as refineries, chemical facilities, and power plants – that make a major modification that significantly increases their air pollution emissions to install modern pollution controls. Adopted in the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments, this program is vital to ensuring air pollution emission reductions from industrial facilities. For 25 years, powerful interests have sought unsuccessfully to rid themselves of the program through the courts and Congress. However, they have found a sympathetic ear in the Bush administration.

The sponsors of the Senate letter – Senators John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman, James Jeffords, and Tom Daschle – have been leaders in efforts to ensure that our air quality continues to improve, fending off the most concerted attack on the Clean Air Act since its passage. “The Bush administration has put private profit ahead of public health,” said Schubert. “But the Senate has said that this will not be allowed — that public health comes before corporate profit.”

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