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Environment

New Trigger For Regulation

EPA proposal would relax rules for emission control from modified facilities

by Cheryl Hogue
September 18, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 38

Chemical and pharmaceutical makers, power plants, and refineries could more easily modify their plants without adding air pollution controls, under a Sept. 8 EPA proposal.

EPA says the changes would accelerate investments in cleaner, energy-saving technologies and reduce the demand for natural gas. Environmental activists, meanwhile, say the proposal is another attempt by the Bush Administration to provide loopholes in air pollution control requirements.

The proposal would change Clean Air Act regulations on what EPA calls new source review. These regulations define when modifications to an industrial facility increase emissions and require the plant to install modern pollution control technology. Three parts of these complicated regulations would be altered.

The first part of the proposal involves situations where a company modifies a part of a facility and thereby increases production in other areas of the plant. Under the proposal, any increase in pollution from the unmodified areas of the plant would not count toward new source review.

The second part of the proposal addresses situations in which a facility has plans to implement two or more modifications. If at least one of those projects is dependent on another, EPA would lump them together for new source review. Otherwise, each independent project would be considered separately.

Under the third change, EPA would eliminate the current requirement for a facility to conduct a complex emissions analysis for a project if the modification does not result in a significant increase in air pollution.

The American Chemistry Council is studying the proposal to determine whether it is workable for chemical plants, says Leslie A. Hulse, ACC assistant general counsel.

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