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Great Lakes Article:

14 States File Suit in Attempt to Block New E.P.A. Rules
By Terence Neilan
The New York Times

A coalition of 14 states plus the District of Columbia filed papers in federal court today in an effort to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from introducing a new rule that the states say will seriously weaken the provisions of the Clean Air Act and send more pollution into the atmosphere.

Twelve states, led by New York, sued the E.P.A. on Oct. 27, arguing that the new regulations would lower air pollution protections and damage public health.

Today the same states, joined by California and Illinois, sought a court order blocking the new regulations, which are scheduled to be introduced on Dec. 26, in 12 states that do not administer these rules themselves. The 38 other states will have up to three years to decide whether to adopt the new rules.

The 14 states states that sued today want the new rule to be put on hold while the case is brought to trial to determine whether or not the regulations are legal. The new rule "violates the plain language of the Clean Air Act, conflicts with Congressional intent, and contradicts longstanding court rulings," the states said in a statement today.

"It is a sad day in America when a coalition of states must go to federal court to defend the Clean Air Act against the misguided actions of the federal agency created to protect the environment," the New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, said. "But in this matter, the E.P.A. is standing with polluters instead of with the people it is supposed to protect, and the states have no choice but to take this action."

The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said: "This rollback will mean more smog, and acid rain, more asthma, respiratory-related disease and even death for Connecticut and the nation."

He added: "Given the dire threat to public health and the environment, and the strength of our case, the court should call a time out until we have the opportunity to show that these changes are illegal. The Bush Administration seeks to repeal the Clean Air Act by dictatorial edict, which it can't legally do. In doing so, the administration is sacrificing public health and the environment to advance the financial interests of its friends in the energy industry."

The previous E.P.A. rules, known as New Source Review regulations, had generally required older coal-fired power plants and oil refineries to add new pollution controls if they were modernized in ways that increased harmful emissions.

But the revised standards create substantial exemptions for the industry and would halt investigations at more than 50 power plants owned by 10 different utilities, E.P.A. enforcement lawyers say.

Any modifications costing up to 20 percent of the replacement cost of the unit will be considered routine maintenance, and therefore exempt from pollution controls, Mr. Spitzer said in a statement on Oct. 27, "even if the plant modification results in much higher levels of air pollution."

Thirteen cases in which the E.P.A. had already determined that the law had been violated have been dropped, Mr. Spitzer says. He added that the states are seeking records for those cases and will file lawsuits if they are warranted.

An agency spokeswoman, Lisa Harrison, said last week that Mr. Spitzer "either already has, or has access to, all of the documents that he is referring to." Ms. Harrison has since left the agency. Cynthia Bergman, the E.P.A.'s new press secretary, said she would not comment until she had seen a statement put out by the 14 states.

"The Oct. 27 action and today's action are like a two-pronged approach to what from our perspective is the same problem," Mark Violette, a spokesman in Albany for Mr. Spitzer, said.

"We went into court on Oct. 27 and we said essentially this is illegal," Mr. Violette said. "We are suing the Bush administration and the E.P.A., and we will show in the course of a lawsuit, a trial, a) why this rule is injurious to the health of Americans and to the environment, and b) will show why the way the Bush administration did this is illegal."

Essentially, the request to the court today will be to block the rules from taking effect as scheduled, "while we are in the middle of a lawsuit about the legality of the rule itself," Mr. Violette said.

Today's action was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In addition to New York, California and Illinois, the states suing today are Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. A number of local governments, including the city of New York and various Connecticut municipalities, have also joined the suit.

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