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Great Lakes Article:

Six states threaten to sue Bush over clean air standards

By DOUGLAS TURNER News Washington Bureau Chief

1/9/2002

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 plants.

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 Agency.

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 Adirondacks.

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.

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