Bush Administration Charged With Weakening Clean Air Act

New Source Review changes called illegal by environmental, public health groups


Press Office Contact:


Cory Magnus, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500

Bush administration changes to a key provision of the Clean Air Act are illegal and would lead to increased air pollution and health risks, charged environmental and public health organizations in an opening brief filed late yesterday in a federal appeals court.

Representing the American Lung Association, Communities for a Better Environment, Environmental Defense, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed an opening brief yesterday stating that the administration’s December 2002 illegal rule changes significantly weaken the Act’s “new source review” provisions.

“The Bush administration rules enable facilities to continue poisoning America’s skies by ducking long-overdue pollution controls,” said Keri Powell of Earthjustice, one of the attorneys handling the case for the environmental and public health groups. “The American public should be outraged at the price they will pay for these changes in environmental destruction and increased health risks.”

Established more than two decades ago, the new source review program was created to require industrial facilities to install up-to-date pollution controls when they make physical or operational changes that increase air pollution. Fifteen states have filed similar challenges to the Bush administration’s rule changes.

“The weakening changes adopted by the EPA will allow chemical companies, oil refineries and power plants to increase air pollution while claiming on paper they are not. Relaxing air pollution rules applicable to more than 20,000 industrial polluters defies basic principles of common sense and good government. The American people need real, enforceable reductions in air pollution,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, which has long been the leading national public health organization involved in the fight for clean air.

“The Bush administration believes power plants and other industries should be allowed to spew even more toxic pollution into our air, despite the harm to millions of Americans,” said John Walke, director of NRDC’s Clean Air Program. “Only polluters will breathe easier from the administration’s attack on the Clean Air Act.”

“The administration’s weakening of the Clean Air Act is bad news for anyone who breathes,” said Nat Mund, Clean Air Expert at the Sierra Club. “The Bush administration is giving polluters the green light to ignore Americans’ health and safety. The administration should enforce the law and tell power plants, factories, and refineries to reduce the pollution that threatens our families and communities.”

“With these loopholes, EPA is stripping away vital, cost-effective clean air measures that have protected Americans from the harmful effects of industrial air pollution for a quarter century,” said Environmental Defense attorney Janea Scott. “Given the medical research documenting that current air pollution levels have serious effects on people’s hearts and lungs, programs that protect the public’s health should be strengthened — not undercut.”

Weakening this vital clean air program will harm communities across the country. Ozone-forming emissions, carcinogens such as benzene, and toxic metals such as mercury can be transported for hundreds of miles beyond the immediate area of a polluting facility.

“Bush’s pro-polluter agenda puts profits ahead of public health. Communities across the country are standing up for clean air,” said Scott Kuhn, interim legal director of Communities for a Better Environment.

State and local groups represented by the Clean Air Task Force are also involved in this suit.

The opening brief was submitted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Spokesperson Contacts

Diane Maple, ALA, 202-785-3355
Scott Kuhn, CBE, 323-826-9771
Jonathon Lewis, Clean Air Task Force, 617-292-0234
Howard Fox, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500
Janea Scott, Environmental Defense, 212-616-1267
John Walke, NRDC, 202-289-2406
Brian O’Malley, Sierra Club, 202-675-6279

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