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US Environmental Record

New Source Review

Project: US Environmental Issues
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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The Justice Department, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, files lawsuits against 32 power plants in 10 mid-west and southeast states for failing to install state-of-the-art pollution controls—as required by the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act—when companies made major modifications to their coal-fired plants. The suits say that the companies’ violations of NSR has resulted in illegal emissions of tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter into the air. [US Department of Justice, 11/3/1999] Some of these companies have been releasing these illegal emissions for 20 years or more. [New York Times Magazine, 4/4/2004] Six months after coming to office, the Bush administration will put all of these investigations on hold, causing some companies to abandon settlements or pull out of their negotiations with the Justice Department (see June 22, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: New Source Review

The energy and utility industries lobby Congress to attach a rider to a pending appropriations bill that would deny the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department funding to pursue litigation (see November 3, 1999) against a group of mid-western and southern utility companies for violations of the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. In letters to Congress, the groups insist that failing to pass the rider “could have severe implications for [electric] supply reliability in the near future.… [U]nits covered by the enforcement action could potentially be shut down.” Environmental groups counter that passing the rider would make enforcement of NSR impossible. Congress does not pass the rider. [Washington Post, 11/15/1999]

Category Tags: New Source Review, Coal Industry, Oil and gas industry

Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman announces that her state has joined the federal government’s lawsuits (see November 3, 1999) against several mid-west and southeast utility companies for allegedly releasing tens of millions of illegal emissions in violation of the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. Governor Whitman says: “We’ve done much here in New Jersey to ensure that our residents can breathe clean air. All of our efforts are fruitless, however, if New Jerseyans must breathe the dirty air coming into our state from mid-west coal-burning power plants. This legal action will require that these power plants clean up their emissions and stop polluting our air.” [New Jersey, 12/3/1999; Reuters, 12/6/1999]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: New Source Review, Environmental enforcement

Presidential candidate George W. Bush unveils an environmental plan that would require power plants to reduce emissions of four main pollutants. If elected, Bush says he will propose legislation requiring “electric utilities to reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality.” Specifically, he promises to “work with Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, consumer and environmental groups, and industry to develop legislation that will establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide.” [GeorgeWBush.Com, 9/29/2000] Bush will break that promise within two months of taking office (see March 1, 2001, March 8, 2001, and March 13, 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Air pollution, New Source Review

Cinergy Corp., a Cincinnati-based electric utility, agrees to settle a Justice Department lawsuit (see November 3, 1999) over its alleged violation of the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. As part of the agreement, Cinergy will spend $1.4 billion to install state-of-the-art pollution controls at 10 coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. It is estimated that the plant upgrades will reduce the company’s annual sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 400,000 tons and 100,000 tons, respectively. The company also agrees to pay an $8.5 million fine and complete $21 million in environmental projects. [Cinergy Corp., 12/21/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 12/21/2000; Associated Press, 12/21/2000]

Entity Tags: Cinergy Corp, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: New Source Review

Coal and utility companies lobby the Bush administration’s energy task force, headed by Vice President Cheney, to include in its forthcoming energy plan a recommendation to lift the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. The energy companies want to be able to expand the capacity of their plants without triggering NSR requirements to upgrade pollution controls. [Wall Street Journal, 5/1/2001; Reuters, 5/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Energy industry, New Source Review, Coal Industry

Senators John Breaux (R-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) send a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney asking him, in his capacity as chairman of the National Energy Policy Development Group, to order the suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. The senators say utility companies are confused about NSR rules and that the EPA should clarify how it interprets new source reviews. They also asks Cheney to suspend current litigation efforts against several utility companies that were initiated under the Clinton administration (see November 3, 1999). The senators claim that the suits are undermining energy production. [Inhofe, 3/23/2001; Reuters, 3/30/2001]

Entity Tags: John Breaux, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, James M. Inhofe

Category Tags: New Source Review, Cheney Energy Task Force

EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman tells the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee that she doesn’t know of any proposal to drop the government’s New Source Review (NSR)lawsuits against utility and energy companies. Her statement is in response to a question from Senator Hillary Clinton who noted that there were reports (see After January 22, 2001) of an internal White House debate over the suits. [US Congress, 5/15/2001, pp. 31-32 pdf file; Reuters, 5/15/2001] In 1999, the EPA had accused the companies of illegally releasing tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in violation of the NSR section of the Clean Air Act (see November 3, 1999).

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Hillary Clinton

Category Tags: New Source Review

National Energy Policy report.National Energy Policy report. [Source: Climate Change Technology Program]Vice President Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group releases its energy plan. The plan, titled Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America’s Future, warns that the quantity of oil imported per day will need to rise more than fifty percent to 16.7 million barrels by 2020. “A significant disruption in world oil supplies could adversely affect our economy and our ability to promote key foreign and economic policy objectives, regardless of the level of US dependence on oil imports,” the report explains. To meet the US’s rising demand for oil, the plan calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and the easing of regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. [US President, 5/16/2001, pp. 8.5 pdf file; Associated Press, 12/9/2002; Guardian, 1/23/2003]
Emphasis on Foreign Oil - The report places substantial emphasis on oil from the Persian Gulf region. Its chapter on “strengthening global alliances” states: “By any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world oil security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of US international energy policy.” [US President, 5/16/2001, pp. 8.5 pdf file] But it also suggests that the US cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply to provide the growing amount of oil that it needs and will have to obtain substantial supplies from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, Africa, and the Atlantic Basin. Additionally, it notes that the US cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies. [Japan Today, 4/30/2002]
Revamping of Clean Air Act - The plan also calls for a clarification of the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act, which requires energy companies to install state-of-the-art emission control technology whenever it makes major modifications to its plants. The administration’s energy plan gives the Environmental Protection Agency 90 days to review NSR and determine whether it is discouraging companies from constructing or expanding power plants and refineries. It also instructs the attorney general to review current NSR litigation efforts against utility companies to determine whether those efforts are contributing to the country’s energy problems. “The outcome could determine whether the government drops some cases, approaches others more leniently, or even renegotiates settlements already reached,” the New York Times reports. [US President, 5/16/2001, pp. 8.5 pdf file; New York Times, 5/18/2001]
Dodging the EPA - The representative of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the task force had blocked the recommendation of a technique called “hydraulic fracturing.” Sometimes called “fracking,” the technique, used to extract natural gas from the earth, often contaminates aquifers used for drinking water and irrigation. The recommendation was removed to placate the EPA official, then quietly reinserted into the final draft. Halliburton, Cheney’s former firm, is the US leader in the use of hydraulic fracturing. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 18]
Cheney Stayed Largely behind the Scenes - Much of the task force’s work was done by a six-member staff, led by executive director Andrew Lundquist, a former aide to senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK). Lundquist served as the Bush-Cheney campaign’s energy expert, earning the nickname “Light Bulb” from the president. Lundquist will leave the Bush administration and become a lobbyist for such firms as British Petroleum, Duke Energy, and the American Petroleum Institute. Much of the report is shaped by Lundquist and his colleagues, who in turn relied heavily on energy company executives and their lobbyists. For himself, Cheney did not meet openly with most of the participants, remaining largely behind the scenes. He did meet with Enron executive Kenneth Lay (see April 17, 2001 and After), with officials from Sandia National Laboratories to discuss their economic models of the energy industry, with energy industry consultants, and with selected Congressmen. Cheney also held meetings with oil executives such as British Petroleum’s John Browne that are not listed on the task force’s calendar. [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
Controversial Meetings with Energy Executives - Both prior to and after the publication of this report, Cheney and other Task Force officials meet with executives from Enron and other energy companies, including one meeting a month and a half before Enron declares bankruptcy in December 2001 (see After January 20, 2001), Mid-February, 2001, March 21, 2001, March 22, 2001, April 12, 2001, and April 17, 2001). Two separate lawsuits are later filed to reveal details of how the government’s energy policy was formed and whether Enron or other players may have influenced it, but the courts will eventually allow the Bush administration to keep the documents secret (see May 10, 2005). [Associated Press, 12/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Lay, Halliburton, Inc., Environmental Protection Agency, Enron Corporation, Andrew Lundquist, Bush administration (43), American Petroleum Institute, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, British Petroleum, Duke Energy, John Browne

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Peak Oil

Category Tags: Corporate welfare, Politicization and deception, Energy industry, Oil and gas industry, New Source Review, Cheney Energy Task Force

Cinergy Corp announces that it is backing out of its settlement with the Justice Department. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a suit against the company for allegedly violating the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. Cinergy’s decision to pull out of the settlement comes less than a week after the Bush administration announced that it would review all of the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement cases (see May 16, 2001). According to the terms of the settlement (see December 21, 2000), the Ohio-based utility company would have spent $1.4 billion on environmental improvements to their plants reducing its annual emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by an estimated 500,000 tons. [Air Daily, 5/21/2001; National Environment Trust, 6/29/2006]

Entity Tags: Cinergy Corp

Category Tags: New Source Review

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department has put all of its New Source Review (NSR) investigations on hold, pending the outcome of a review of NSR by the Environmental Protection Agency. Taken as a whole, the Justice Department probes constitute one of the largest environmental investigations in US history. It has been looking at dozens of firms accused by the EPA, under Clinton, of expanding power plants or refineries without installing state-of-the-art pollution control systems, as required by the NSR section of the Clean Air Act. Together these plants are alleged to have spewed hundreds of millions of tons of illegal emissions into the atmosphere. According to EPA spokeswoman Tina Kreisher, the agency—under order from the White House (see May 16, 2001)—is now trying to determine whether companies can be given “more operational and design flexibility” to meet NSR requirements. Likewise, the Justice Department is also conducting a review. Cristine Romano, a spokeswoman for the department, says the Justice Deparmtment intends to look at the “legal soundness” of the NSR investigations. The Journal also reports that the Justice Department is actually advising companies not to sign settlements, but instead to wait until the EPA review has been completed. For example, Dominion Resources almost agreed to spend $1.2 billion on pollution-control upgrades at its plants as part of a settlement. But according to the Journal, it decided not to on advice offered by the Justice Department. [Wall Street Journal, 6/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Tina Kreisher, Cristine Romano

Category Tags: New Source Review

Testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, EPA administrator Christine Whitman names several Clean Air Act programs that the Bush administration is considering terminating. One of the programs slated for elimination is the New Source Review, which requires power companies to install state-of-the-art pollution controls whenever they build new plants or add additional capacity to existing ones. [US Congress, 7/26/2001, pp. 104]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: New Source Review

In a letter to Senator James Jeffords, California Air Resources Board executive director Michael P. Kenny says that a recent testimony by C. Boyden Gray may have misled Congress into believing “that since California has made considerable progress toward achieving clean air standards there is justification for relaxing or eliminating the New Source Review program.” Rather, according to Kenny, the continuation of the New Source Review program is essential. “[I]n both verbal and written comments to the US Environmental Protection Agency (enclosed) we shared our experience with the success of New Source Review in California.… The New Source Review program in California… has… resulted in the construction of some of the cleanest power plants in the nation.… New Source Review is based on the solid premise that new emissions should be minimized and mitigated so that industrial growth can continue without undermining progress toward achieving clean air mandates.… We believe that any weakening of New Source Review control requirements will increase the need to achieve a greater proportion of emission reductions from existing sources and will likely result in a less effective pollution control program.” [US Congress, 7/26/2001, pp. 104]

Entity Tags: Clayland Boyden Gray, James Jeffords, Michael P. Kenny

Category Tags: New Source Review

Companies charged with violating New Source ReviewCompanies charged with violating New Source Review [Source: Clear the Air]The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a rule that makes four important changes to the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. Critics say the changes will help polluting industries maintain the status quo.
Plant-wide Applicability Limits (PALs) - This change will allow a facility to set a Plant-wide Applicability Limit (PAL) based on its average emissions over the previous ten years. A facility will be exempted from the New Source Review process when it upgrades or expands its operations if those changes do not cause the plant’s emissions to exceed its PAL. Critics complain that the change does not require plants to reduce their overall emissions when a facility expands or modifies operations.
Pollution Control and Prevention Projects - Facilities will be permitted to undertake certain environmentally beneficial activities without having to apply for NSR permits.
Clean Unit Provision - Plants that voluntarily install “best available pollution controls” will be afforded “clean unit” status and exempted from NSR provisions for a period of 15 years. The change is retroactive to 1990.
Emissions Calculation Test Methodology - Facilities will be permitted to use a more lenient method when determining if a plant upgrade has increased its emissions. With the exception of power plants, facilities will be permitted to select any 24-month period during the previous decade to serve as its baseline for determining pre-modification emission levels. The EPA also announces that it intends to revise the “Routine Maintenance, Repair and Replacement” exemption so that any modifications whose costs do not exceed a certain level would be exempt from the NSR provisions requiring plants to install pollution controls and conduct impact assessments on the ambient air quality when upgrading or replacing equipment. [Clean the Air, n.d. pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 11/22/2002; EarthVision Environmental News, 11/25/2002; ENSR International, 12/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Air pollution, Energy industry, Coal Industry, New Source Review, Key Events

The EPA revises the “New Source Review”(NSR) provision of the Clean Air Act. Previously, the NSR required industrial facilities to install modern pollution controls when they made upgrades to their facilities. However, the provision’s revised definition of “routine maintenance” will exempt some 17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment, provided that the cost does not exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of what the EPA broadly defines as the entire “process unit.” This restriction basically allows industries to replace entire plants one-fifth at a time with no concomitant responsibility to controlling its emissions. This applies even to circumstances where the upgrades increase pollution. It is estimated that the revised rule could save billions of dollars for utilities, oil companies and others. Industry has spent the last two years heavily lobbying the White House for this rollback. [Reuters, 8/28/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003] New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer promises to sue the administration, telling reporters, “This flagrantly illegal rule will ensure that… Americans will breathe dirtier air, contract more respiratory disease, and suffer more environmental degradation caused by air pollution.” [Reuters, 8/28/2003]

Entity Tags: Eliot Spitzer, Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Air pollution, Coal Industry, New Source Review, Key Events

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials announce during an internal meeting of EPA enforcement officials in Seattle and during a conference call the following day that current cases involving violations of the Clean Air Act will be judged according to the agency’s new interpretation of the New Source Review (see August 27, 2003) —to go into effect in December (see December 2003) —instead of the old, more stringent rules that were in use at the time the violations occurred. [Los Angeles Times, 11/6/2003; New York Times, 11/6/2003; US Congress, 2/6/2004] The backroom decision contradicts what EPA air official Jeff Holmstead told a Senate committee in 2002. “It is certainly our intent to make these (rules) prospective only,” he claimed at the time. [USA Today, 11/6/2003] According to lawyers at the EPA, the agency’s decision will likely result in the EPA dismissing investigations into 50 coal-burning power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act. According to the lawyers, the changes—based on recommendations from Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force—could save the industry up to $20 billion. However in its official statement on November 5, the EPA says that no formal decision has been made to dismiss all the investigations, claiming that it would review each “on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it will be pursued or set aside.” [New York Times, 11/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jeffrey Holmstead, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Air pollution, Public health, Environmental enforcement, New Source Review

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