2003 Scorecard Vote
Emissions from coal-fired power plants have been a long-standing health concern, linked by scientific studies to tens of thousands of deaths each year. Older coal-fired power plants, in particular, account for nearly all the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and soot produced by utilities. The 1970 Clean Air Act specified that new power plants and other new industrial facilities include state-of-the-art pollution controls. Existing plants initially had to meet fewer requirements but were required to install modern pollution controls whenever they made plant changes that significantly increased emissions of harmful pollutants. This requirement, known as new source review, applies to more than 20,000 industrial facilities nationwide, including incinerators, steel mills, oil refineries and paper plants in addition to power plants.
On December 31, 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency published changes to new source review regulations that make it easier for dirty plants to expand their operations and increase air pollution without adopting pollution controls. For example, the new rules weaken the ability of states to control emissions from older plants. The rules also allow facilities to use some of their dirtiest years out of the past decade as the baseline for calculating increases in emissions, resulting in air pollution increases that escape control.
In response, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) offered an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill to put the rule changes on hold until the end of fiscal year 2003. This delay would have allowed the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the impact of the proposed rule changes on levels of air pollution and the public's health--an analysis that EPA had failed to complete. On January 22, 2003, the Senate defeated the Edwards amendment by a 46-50 vote (Senate roll call vote 12). YES is the pro-environment vote. On August 27, 2003, EPA finalized a second set of rule changes to give existing plants greater freedom to change plant operations and increase pollution without triggering pollution control requirements; however, in December 2003 a federal court of appeals issued an injunction preventing the administration from enforcing these new rules pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by states and environmental groups.