EPA Emissions Proposal Sparks Debate

An Environmental Protection Agency draft proposal would change the way pollution from power plants is measured — changes that critics say would undermine clean air laws. The document, which was acquired by NPR, would limit pollution on an hourly — not yearly — basis.

Currently, plants that exceed a specific tonnage of emissions over the course of a year are required to upgrade their pollution control technologies. The 95-page draft document would change that critics say would allow a new loophole: Power plants could simply double their operating time to gain more leeway.

Industry officials say the new plan could provide serve as an incentive for efficient energy production. And they point to a separate federal regulation — the clean air interstate rule — which is intended to reduce overall amounts of pollution.

The EPA proposal comes as a series of legal cases triggered by the current regulations are working their way through federal courts. New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer says the rule change would hurt effort to "ensure the power companies abide by the law and don't spew stuff into the atmosphere."

Administration officials say the rules are still very early in the process. The proposal is expected to make it through an inter-agency review in the coming weeks.

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