Thursday, April 14, 2005

House Energy Bill Would Mean More Dirty Air

Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800Washington, DC 20005(202) 558-3527

For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527 or


(Washington, DC. April 14, 2005) – The non-profit Clean Air Watch today warned that energy legislation approved last night by a House committee would mean continuing air pollution problems for tens of millions of Americans in communities ranging from Dallas-Fort Worth to greater Connecticut.

The controversial legislation includes a provision that would encourage the U.S. EPA to extend the deadline in many communities for meeting national health-based standards for ozone, or smog. The provision was endorsed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), an outspoken advocate of the delay.

“If this provision became law, it would be the biggest weakening of the Clean Air Act in decades,” warned Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “Many millions of Americans would suffer from dirty air as a result.”

O’Donnell noted the bad-air provision would turn EPA’s recent “clean air interstate rule” on its head: That rule was aimed at making it easier for states to meet clean air standards in a timely way, though EPA acknowledged it would be inadequate to do the job. EPA emphasized in the rule that state governments would still be responsible for cleaning up the rest of the dirty air.

The new House provision would enable states to use the EPA interstate rule as an excuse: They could say that where the reductions were inadequate – and this is projected to include states from Illinois to the East Coast -- breathers in downwind states would be forced to breathe dirty air longer.

“In effect it would become a Catch-22 plan for dirty air,” O’Donnell said. “No state would have to meet the standards until states upwind of it did.”

Some states are already beginning to use this excuse to argue for extended deadlines. The head of Ohio’s state EPA, for example, asserted last Sunday that, despite the EPA interstate rule, his state could not meet smog standards on time because of pollution being blown in from other states. (Simultaneously, Ohio is seeking to eliminate some local smog controls.) Allowing more pollution in Ohio, of course, would also harm breathers in such downwind states as Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut.

The legislation is expected to go to the House floor next week.


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