Bush Defends Change in Environmental Rules
MONROE, Mich. - President Bush yesterday defended a change in clean air rules - which environmentalists believe will cause more pollution - as necessary to allow power plants to upgrade their equipment and keep the U.S. economy going.
\"We have done the right thing,\" Bush said.
Wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, Bush toured a coal-burning power plant, the Detroit Edison Monroe facility, then gave a speech to employees and local political figures saying his environmental policies are working.
Bush was on a day trip to two states crucial to his re-election next year, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to talk up his environmental record and add to his $60 million campaign war chest. He was to address Republican donors in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, later yesterday.
Bush\'s Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a major rewrite of so-called \"New Source Review\" rules that govern the steps utilities, petroleum refiners and thousands of other facilities must take when making major upgrades to their plants.
It allows industry make major plant upgrades without installing expensive pollution-reduction equipment and lets dirtier, older plants to operate well beyond their intended life span.
Bush said the policy needed to be changed to allow plants to upgrade quickly to improve their reliability rather than go through a complicated government review process. \"The rules created too many hurdles, and that hurts the working people,\" he said.
\"It makes sense to change these regulations,\" Bush said. \"It makes sense for the workplace environment, it makes sense for the protection of our air. Not only do I believe that, but union leaders believe that, manufacturers believe that, the utilities believe that, a bipartisan coalition of Congress believes it.\"
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS OBJECT
But several Democratic presidential candidates including Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said the Senate should block confirmation of Bush\'s choice to head the EPA, Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, until the administration changes its clear air policy.
Environmental groups said Bush\'s policy will increase pollution, particularly at the Monroe plant, one of the largest coal-fired plants in the country.
\"Thanks to new rules from a \'kinder, gentler EPA,\' Detroit Edison can upgrade Monroe and other plants, even if pollution increases substantially as a result, without obtaining the permits and pollution controls that used to be required under the \'New Source Review\' provisions of the Clean Air Act,\" said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former chief of civil enforcement at the EPA.
Outside the plant, guarded by police, was a group of protesters who had a giant papier-mache rat with the slogan, \"Rat\'s Best Friend.\"
Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko said Bush\'s appearance was an effort to defend the policy. \"I think it\'s important to literally clear the air on this rule,\" she told reporters.
Bush said he would use a speech at the White House on Tuesday to urge Congress to approve his \"Clear Skies\" initiative to amend the 1970 Clean Air Act.
The Bush administration contends its proposal would cut power plant emissions of the three worst pollutants - nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury - by 70 percent.
Environmentalists say it would increase pollution compared with existing law and fails to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, thought to be a major cause of global warming.
Story by Steve Holland
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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