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Great Lakes Article:

Pollution rule survives challenge
Senate won’t delay easing of standards
Ann McFeatters
Toledo Blade
01/23/2003


WASHINGTON - In a narrow victory for President Bush, the Senate yesterday voted 50-46 against a Democratic proposal to delay a highly controversial Environmental Protection Agency rule that will permit factories and power plants to upgrade facilities without having to install the newest anti-pollution technology.

Ohio’s two Republican senators, George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, supported the President in what Mr. Voinovich said on the Senate floor was a necessary move for the economy and would permit plants to modernize without having to add costly new anti-pollution controls. Republicans also argued that the new rule has the potential to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

The National Association of Manufacturers said it was delighted with the vote on the so-called "New Source (of pollution) Review’’ rule that industry has been seeking for years. The administration announced last November, after the mid-term elections, that as part of the review it was relaxing standards for when refineries, industrial plants, and coal-fired utilities must install new pollution controls.

The debate has pitted the Northeast against the Midwest, largely because air pollution from heavy industry in the Midwest tends to flow eastward. The EPA said it was making the change in policy because the old interpretation of the clean air law was keeping more efficient, less polluting plants from being built.

Disputing charges that the new rule is a rollback of the Clean Air Act standards, the manufacturers said the new rule will "help promote safer, cleaner, and more efficient factories, refineries, and power plants.’’

Environmental groups, braced for defeat in the Republican-controlled Senate, said they were disheartened.

Sen. John Edwards (D, N.C.), who is running for president, tried without success to block implementation of the new rules until Sept. 15 to give the National Academy of Sciences time to do a study of the likely impact on air pollution and health. Mr. Edwards said that air pollution in his state has become so bad that simply breathing the air takes two to three years off normal life expectancy.

Mr. Edwards vowed to keep bringing the issue up "because I think we can stop them from weakening the Clean Air Act and putting people’s lives at risk. I’m not giving up this fight.’’

After rejecting Mr. Edwards’ amendment, the Senate voted 51 to 45 to approve an amendment to have the EPA rule go into effect in March.

But nine northeastern states have filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the rule. They argue the rule will have an adverse effect on their citizens because it will not reduce air pollution that wafts east from the Midwest as much as the law intended.

Another presidential candidate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D, Conn.) said, "This latest rollback from the Bush Administration will only extend the life of the dirtiest industrial plants and worsen the lives of citizens [who] breathe the pollution from their smokestacks every day.’’

Also yesterday, Mr. Voinovich said that he expects the Senate today to pass two of his amendments to the pending $390 billion appropriations legislation moving through Congress. Both amendments would have an impact on the Toledo area.

Mr. Voinovich hopes the Senate will extend by two years - until 2005 - the current two-year moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Great Lakes. This amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.).

And he hopes the Senate will expand the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge east of Toledo. He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the refuge contributes $5.6 million a year to the local economy. The House version is sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, Toledo).

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