Belting Utilities: Cracking Down on Clean Air
Doherty, Brian, Reason
A WHITE HOUSE initiative to eliminate one of the perverse incentives created by the Clean Air Act has been halted by a federal appeals court. The Bush administration had planned to relax enforcement of "new source review" (NSR) regulations at the end of December, but 12 state attorneys general and various city officials sued to stop the change. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C, has blocked the reform pending resolution of the suit.
NSR involves changes to pre-1977 power plants that were grandfathered under the Clean AirAct. Such plants did not have to meet all the equipment requirements for a new plant immediately. The newer, more onerous requirements were supposed to kick in only when the plants went through "major modification" as opposed to "routine maintenance, repair, and replacement."
In the late 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began tightening NSR rules and suing utilities, including the government's own Tennessee Valley Authority, in ways that the industry saw as violating the meaning of those phrases. …