New Source Review proposal must restore common sense to air quality regulation, EEI says

Nov. 22, 2002 — The Bush administration’s proposal to clarify the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements concerning “routine maintenance, repair and replacement” is a critical first step that — depending on the eventual outcome — could greatly improve the way power plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, the Edison Electric Institute said Friday.

However, the Institute expressed disappointment that the proposal stopped short of embracing a clear regulatory blueprint to remove the uncertainty facing power plant operators over whether to proceed with critical maintenance, efficiency improvements and other activities.

“We are pleased that the Environmental Protection Agency today is starting to move the ball down the field on an issue that has plagued us for years,” said Quin Shea, EEI executive director, environment. “But we’re frustrated that the agency has stopped short of advancing a specific proposal that would remove the perpetual threat of litigation hanging over the heads of power plant operators facing difficult decisions about whether to proceed with critical maintenance activities.”

“We have long urged EPA to draw a distinction between routine activities and those that clearly are major modifications that would require power plants to install additional emission controls,” Shea said.

“One thing we know for certain is that the electric power industry will continue to reduce its emissions, regardless of how the NSR issue ultimately is resolved,” Shea underscored.

EPA never has issued clear guidance as to how the NSR program was to be implemented. But in the absence of such guidance, the agency for more than 20 years implemented and enforced the program in a common-sense manner. In other words, EPA allowed power companies to undertake routine maintenance, repairs, efficiency improvements, and other activities that neither extended the life of their facilities nor resulted in increased emissions.

In 1999, however, EPA abandoned its historic enforcement practices and, with no warning or opportunity for public input, drastically reinterpreted the NSR program to prohibit the very same routine activities the agency until then had condoned. This unprecedented enforcement action included lawsuits filed against seven power companies by the Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA, and an administrative order against the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The government sued an eighth power company in 2000.

“Our hope is that EPA ultimately will rectify this unfortunate turn of events and adopt clarifications to the New Source Review program to facilitate — rather than undermine — our ability to maintain the reliability and safety of our power plants,” Shea said. “There is no reason why we can’t have both a reliable and affordable supply of electricity and continued air quality improvement. There are numerous programs in place to assure that the latter goal is achieved, and we urge the administration to adopt NSR regulations that help us achieve both objectives.”

For more information about New Source Review, including a history of the program and diagrams depicting coal-based electric power generation, visit EEI’s web site at

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) is the association of U.S. shareholder- owned electric companies, international affiliates and industry associates worldwide. Our U.S. members serve roughly 90 percent of the ultimate customers in the shareholder-owned segment of the industry, nearly 70 percent of all electric utility ultimate customers in the nation, and generate nearly 70 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.

Source: Edison Electric Institute

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