Senate Falls Short on Effort To Block Clean Air Rollback

On January 22nd, Environmental Defense expressed disappointment in a U.S. Senate vote to reject requiring a federal study on the impacts of eliminating the New Source Review (NSR) program under the Clean Air Act. An amendment by Senator John Edwards (D-NC) to the omnibus appropriations bill would have delayed implementation of changes to the NSR program until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) could complete a study.

"While we are disappointed that the Senate did not adopt the Edwards amendment, we commend those 46 Senators who voted to delay changes in the NSR program until the impact of exempting power plants and other industrial facilities from air pollution controls could be studied," said Environmental Defense legislative director Elizabeth Thompson. "Had the votes of those senators who were absent been added to the total in favor of the amendment, this could have very well been a tie vote. Today's outcome also signals that environmental issues are going to receive close scrutiny in this session of Congress."

Among those supporting the effort to delay the NSR rollback were senators McCain (R-AZ), Mikulski (D-MD), Snow (R-ME), Sununu (R-NH), Durbin (D-IL), Byrd (D-WV) and Bayh (D-IN). Among those voting against the measure were Senators Breaux (D-LA), Fitzgerald (R-IL), Smith (R-OR), Lincoln (D-AR) and Pryor (D-AR).

"We congratulate those Senators who voted in favor of protecting the environment and public health," Thompson said. "Senators who voted against allowing the nation's top scientists to study the impact of changing the Clean Air Act should be prepared to explain their decision to constituents back home."

Air quality protections under the "new source review" program have historically required power plants, refineries, steel mills, chemical plants and other large industrial sources that lack modern pollution control systems to update their pollution reduction technology when they take action that significantly increases air pollution. On November 22, 2002 the Bush Administration put forward a policy that stripped away the NSR requirement, a Clean Air Act program that has been instrumental in protecting the health of Americans and local air quality for 25 years.

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