State Journal-Register

November 23, 2002

Illinois officials rap eased air rules 
Gonet foresees little effect on CWLP


WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Friday moved to ease clean-air rules for power plants, refineries and other manufacturers seeking flexibility they say will enable them to improve and expand their plants.

However, Illinois air-quality officials, environmentalists and some lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin sharply criticized the new rules, which they contend will increase air pollution and jeopardize public health.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials warned the rules change will cost the state as much as $4 million more per year to properly enforce.

"If we don't have the resources to implement it properly, ultimately we're all going to pay one way or the other," said David Kolaz, who heads the IEPA's bureau of air.

State officials are still reviewing the rules to determine their impact. They will affect some 2,800 power plants, refineries, steel mills, chemical plants and manufacturers.

If earlier versions of the rules are any indication, Kolaz said, "we're going to have to have a much greater surveillance component of our program in order to ensure the companies are
operating in compliance."

Phil Gonet, the general manager for Springfield's City Water, Light and Power, said the revised regulations will have little impact on CWLP's operations.

Noting that the rules apply primarily to plant expansions and modernizations, Gonet said, "We aren't building any new sources." 

Rejecting charges that the new rules will lead to dirtier air, U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said they will remove regulatory obstacles to projects that would "increase
energy efficiency and decrease air pollution."

Among other things, the rules will allow industry to set higher limits for the amount of polluting emissions that can be released by figuring emissions on a plantwide basis rather than
for individual pieces of equipment.

The U.S. EPA also proposed a new definition for "routine maintenance, repair and replacement," which critics say could make it easier for Illinois' coal-burning power plants to
change their facilities without installing new pollution controls.

The rules come under the EPA's "new source review" program. When the first clean-air rules were written decades ago, coal-burning plants were excluded because it was assumed
they eventually would be replaced. But the administration and industry backers contend the rules had the reverse effect, discouraging improvements since modernization would
require costly new anti-pollution devices.

Illinois has nearly two dozen coal-burning power plants that provide about 50 percent of the state's electricity.

Ironically, the rules changes won't help the state's coal industry because the power plants can't burn Illinois' high-sulfur coal under current federal standards. State lawmakers have
advocated requiring them to install clean-coal technology as a way of helping the struggling coal industry.

The state EPA has been considering tighter emission limits for older power plants but now is likely to follow the federal agency's lead, Kolaz said. The rules change doesn't prohibit
states from adopting more stringent requirements.

Durbin, a Democrat, called the rules change "irresponsible."

"All of the challenges that we have dealt with in order to make our air cleaner and our lungs healthier are now being tossed out the window in favor of these new rules, which will
enable increased air pollution and will contribute to the growing public health crisis," Durbin said.

The rules changes could also jeopardize pending legal actions against polluting companies, said Brian Metcalf of Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

Staff writer Kristy Hessman contributed to this report.