Pollution from power plants and refineries is causing a public health crisis: asthma attacks, emergency room visits, premature death, and brain damage. Power plant pollution is also contributing to global warming, an environmental crisis of massive proportions. Unfortunately, the dirtiest power companies and refiners, like Southern Company and ExxonMobil, are pushing for a rollback of the Clean Air Act so that their older and dirtier facilities can continue to emit hundreds of thousands of tons of excess pollution each year.
Lobbyists for the coal, oil and electric power industries are working overtime to get the administration to weaken key clean air enforcement tools in the Clean Air Act aimed at limiting dangerous emissions of soot and smog-forming pollution by forcing power plants to clean up their air pollution. If the polluters succeed, it could mean millions of tons of added pollution and literally thousands of premature deaths.
Today, the Clean Air Act requires major new sources of pollution such as refineries or coal-fired electric power plants to use the best available pollution controls. Existing pollution sources are treated more leniently, but when existing plants make changes that cause a significant increase in pollution then in the eyes of the law they become "new" and need to upgrade their pollution controls. Dirty power companies and oil refineries have been working for years to weaken this rule. Now, as part of the Bush energy plan, President Bush has instructed the EPA to hold four public hearings and a 30-day public comment period on a key enforcement provision of the Clean Air Act.
Instead, the EPA should maintain the strongest possible "new source review" regulations requiring old power plants and refineries to meet modern pollution limits when they are significantly modified and should support efforts to sharply reduce all four of the major power plant pollutants: smog, soot, mercury and carbon dioxide.