Clean Air  

BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE ~ PO Box 88 Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~

January 17, 2002

Donald S. Welsh, Regional Administrator
United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region III
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029
(215) 814-2900

Re: EPA’s proposed rollback of New Source Review

Dear Administrator Welsh:

On behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, I write to ask for an opportunity to comment on EPA’s proposed changes to current New Source Review rules under the Clean Air Act. We oppose any changes which allow the air to become dirtier because of emissions from any industrial plant at any location in Region III.

Further, we request that you prevent any changes which undermine NSR rules, oppose new or expanded opportunities for polluters to escape modern pollution controls, and use your offices to improve air quality and public health protections under the Clean Air Act.

The basic goals of PSD regulations are to ensure that economic growth will occur in harmony with the preservation of existing clean air resources, to prevent the development of any new non-attainment problems, to protect the public health and welfare from any adverse effect which might occur even at air pollution levels better than the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), and to preserve and enhance the air quality in areas of special natural recreational, scenic, or historic value, such as national parks and wilderness areas.

As you know, an applicant for a PSD permit must apply the best available control technology, conduct an ambient air quality analysis, and undergo adequate public participation. The pollution source may not adversely impact a Class I area; in no event can the determination of BACT result in an emission limitation which would not meet any applicable standard of performance under 40 CFR Parts 60 and 61. These are reasonable, conservative measures which have served us well. Government studies show that costs associated with NSR under the PSD program are minor and predictable expenses.

The EPA’s June 2001 NSR 90 Day Review Background Paper refutes claims by the energy industry that the NSR program is a costly, burdensome program which has inhibited construction and expansion of utility and refinery facilities. On the contrary, the report, ordered by President Bush’s National Energy Policy Development group, concludes that it is reduced consumer demand and deregulation that have discouraged investments in the energy industry. Nowhere is the NSR program mentioned as a negative factor.

The NSR program should retain fundamental environmental protection and public participation procedures. However, it is our understanding that proposals under consideration by the Administration, DOE, and EPA would allow industrial growth to increase pollution significantly.

For example, under the new proposals an industry could make major modifications which increase pollution by comparing emission factors with the highest 24 months in the previous ten years instead of the most recent 24 month period. This would allow any major industrial plant to emit more pollution so long as the increase is not above the highest level in a decade. Another proposal would allow a 15 year delay of NSR after installation of BACT. These proposals would gut the program; it is the wrong direction for the EPA and the nation.

We seek your responses to the following questions:

Has the Region or EPA headquarters analyzed the impact on future pollution levels in Region III states that will result from adoption (through rules or guidance) of the contemplated NSR changes? If so, we request copies of the studies.

Has the Region or EPA headquarters analyzed the impact on state implementation plans and future NAAQS attainment in Region III states including attainment with the new 8-hour ozone standard and fine particulate standard? If so, we request copies of these studies,too.

The anticipated rule changes appear to broaden loopholes in current NSR requirements. What are the legal and scientific bases for these proposals?

The anticipated rule changes provide fewer opportunities for the public to comment by eliminating the NSR permit proceedings that require state-of-the-art pollution controls and air quality impacts analyses. What is the position of EPA with regard to public participation under the new proposals?

What is the EPA’s thinking regarding proposed changes which would allow increased pollution in minority and low income areas already overburdened by pollution?

The currently proposed revisions appear to weaken substantially the air quality and public health protections afforded by current NSR rules; therefore, we ask you to respond to these questions as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your prompt response.


Louis Zeller

BREDL Clean Air Campaign Coordinator

More info: Jan. 17, 2002 -BREDL comments to EPA Region IV regarding New Source Review rules under the Clean Air Act , Read Jan. 17, 2002 Virginia Press Advisory