Six states threaten to sue Bush over clean air standards
By DOUGLAS TURNER News Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON - New York State Attorney General Eliot L.
Spitzer and five other attorneys general from the Northeast
on Tuesday threatened to sue President Bush to stop him
from downgrading clean air standards imposed on coal-fired
power plants in the Ohio Valley.
At a news conference, they accused the Bush administration,
including Vice President Cheney, of shutting out the states
and even their own federal regulators from a process of
"re-evaluation" of the act.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that advisers to
Bush have informally recommended relaxing a provision
that would require power plants to upgrade their pollution
control equipment when they expand the capacity of the
The attitude of the Bush administration on air pollution
is: "Northeast, drop dead!" charged Connecticut
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Though the Buffalo Niagara region is washed by westerly
winds from Lake Erie, it has been particularly hard hit
by airborne pollution from the U.S. Midwest and Canada.
The American Lung Association, for example, has reported
Erie County experienced 18 days in 2001 that were unhealthy
for sensitive groups.
Spitzer said 88 percent of the airborne sulfur dioxide
in Buffalo comes from out-of-state sources.
An organization called the Clean Air Task Force reported
in 2000 that between 285 and 375 deaths from asthma in
New York State were attributable to air pollution.
All six of the attorneys general who spoke are Democrats,
but Spitzer said they have strong support for their lawsuit
against 51 polluting Midwestern power plants.
In fact, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki's office released
to The Buffalo News a strong letter written Oct. 18 by
Erin Crotty, his commissioner of environmental conservation,
to Christie Whitman, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection
In the letter, Crotty said regulations against new sources
of air pollution "must not be relaxed."
She "strongly urged" the EPA use all its authority
to enforce anti-pollution laws on the Midwestern plants.
Crotty said the administration's decisions on air pollution
"will be reflected in the lakes of northern New York
for generations to come."
A 2001 report by an environmental group called Clear
the Air maintains that acid rain, much of it coming from
the 51 plants being sued by New York and other states,
has killed the fish in 25 percent of the lakes in the
According to Spitzer, Cheney - who is heading the panel
re-evaluating the Clean Air Act - has "reached out
to the interest groups for industry but not to the elected
law enforcement officers of the states that are affected"
by the pollution.
"From Day One," Spitzer said, "the vice
president has failed to reach out to the departments of
the federal government."
Cheney's office declined to comment and referred questions
to the White House media relations office, which did not
immediately return phone calls.
In addition to Spitzer and Blumenthal, attorneys general
from Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island
spoke. Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Maine and
New Jersey submitted statements of support.
The Northeastern states already have sued 11 power pants
in the Midwest, alleging they are not complying with Clean
Air Act requirements.