Press Releases & Bulletins

DATE: January 15, 2002

Millions Would Remain in High-Soot Areas

(Washington, D.C. January 15, 2002) - Millions of Americans -- including residents of major Midwestern and Southeastern cities -- would continue to face dangerous levels of particle soot under a secret plan being readied by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

The plan, discussed last week at a meeting of electric power industry executives in Arizona, was drawn up in an effort to guide the Bush Administration's policy towards electric power plants and avert tougher power plant cleanup measures proposed by Senator James Jeffords (I-VT).

EEI, the trade association of the electric power industry, would replace current Clean Air Act requirements with a plan that would "cap" electric utility emissions at set levels and then allow power companies to buy and sell "emission credits." The Clean Air Trust has learned that EEI members, led by Southern Company, are trying to persuade the Bush Administration to adopt this strategy as its own.

An analysis of the plan, obtained by the Clean Air Trust, shows that it could permanently strand millions of Americans in areas with unhealthful levels of particle soot, including residents of such major cities as Birmingham, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Akron and Detroit. The Trust said the total number of dirty-air cities likely would be much larger because the EEI list was based on incomplete monitoring.

"It's deplorable that the electric power industry would seek to roll back the Clean Air Act and replace it with a plan that would mean perpetually dirty air for millions of Americans," said , executive director of the Clean Air Trust. O'Donnell noted that particle soot has been linked to serious heart and respiratory problems and to the premature death of tens of thousands of Americans annually.

"The power companies appear to believe they have a greater right to pollute than the public has a right to breathe clean air," he added.

O'Donnell noted the EEI plan was devised to counter the cleanup plan promoted by Senator Jeffords and an alternative compromise strategy devised by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jeffords' plan would require additional reductions in electric power plant emissions -- including emissions of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide -- without rolling back any current Clean Air Act requirements.

EPA had devised what it called a "straw" proposal that would replace the current Clean Air Act with a "cap and trade" emission plan similar to the EEI proposal, but with tougher emission limits. But EPA conceded -- in a secret analysis shared last fall with EEI -- that its plan would mean dirtier air in the future than if the current Clean Air Act were strictly enforced.

The EEI plan would mean even dirtier air in the future than under the draft EPA plan. It would require no reduction in power plant pollution until 2010. EEI also would block any move to control dangerous mercury emissions until 2015. And it would not include any reduction of carbon dioxide. Some electric power companies have independently promoted a more progressive cleanup strategy.

O'Donnell noted that major EEI members -- again led by Southern Company -- have also been lobbying for a rollback of "new source review" -- the Clean Air Act program designed to prevent increased pollution when power plants, refineries and other major pollution sources make major plant changes. Key lobbyists have included Mark Racicot, incoming chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Haley Barbour, former RNC Chair. Racicot announced last week that he would stop direct lobbying activities although he would continue offering strategic advice to clients including the dirty-power companies.

"It would be a tragedy if current Clean Air Act protections were repealed and replaced by this power industry proposal," said O'Donnell. "The EEI plan is a sham. It would mean dirty air -- and continued health problems for millions of Americans."

An analysis of the EEI plan is available as two Adobe Acrobat PDF files. To read them you must have Adobe's Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. That is available as a free download. If you have Acrobat, go ahead and download these documents: EEI Plan Analysis and EEI Plan Appendix.

As always, please don't hesitate to call (202) 785-9625 if you'd like to discuss these or related issues.