NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Bush Clean Air Initiative

July 18, 2002

Media reports on President Bush's new air pollution reforms often leave the impression he is out to gut the Clean Air Act. But that is far from the case, observers say.

Perhaps this will clarify the issue:

  • Called the "New Source Review," the program was enacted in 1977 to reduce air pollutants from newly built or reconstructed industrial facilities -- and requires electric utilities, refiners, paper mills and other manufacturers to go through an exhaustive permitting process and install sweeping controls for new plants and those undergoing major alterations.
  • The harsh requirements were never intended for existing plants unless they make a "major modification" -- defined in the rule as any change resulting in a "significant" emissions increase -- and do not apply to routine maintenance and repairs.
  • Congress believed at the time the rule was written that imposing the regulations on existing facilities would be ineffective and prohibitively costly.
  • Despite Congress' intent, the rule is complex and confusing -- and this had led to arbitrary and broad applications.

Most of President Bush's plan to remedy this situation was proposed by the Clinton administration and has already undergone technical review and public comment. The President is only finalizing those proposals.

Emission increases would be measured by using records on actual emissions -- rather than by estimating a plant's "potential to emit," which is the current method, based on maximum operations.

Source: Dana Joel Gattuso (Competitive Enterprise Institute), "Clearing the Air on Bush's New Plan," Washington Times, July 8, 2002.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues