WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the National Research Council (NRC) released its "Interim Report of the Committee on Changes in the New Source Review (NSR) Programs for Stationary Sources of Air Pollutants." The final report will be released by the end of the year. Senator Jim Jeffords, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "The report provides further proof that the Bush Administration has been recklessly tinkering with the Clean Air Act for several years and wants to go even further. They want to replace existing programs, like New Source Review, that have documented benefits, with a proposal that is weaker and slower when it comes to reducing emissions and protecting health and the environment." The NRC is conducting this study in response to two amendments - one by Senator Inhofe on the EPA's NSR regulation changes made in 2002; the other by Senators Jeffords, Leahy, Lieberman, Edwards and Bingaman on the routine maintenance changes made in 2003 that have since been stayed by the court. The study is to look at - 1) increases or decreases in emissions of pollutants regulated under the New Source Review program; 2) impacts on human health; 3) installation of pollution control and prevention technologies after effective date of the rules; and, 4) increases or decreases in efficiency of operation. Senator Jeffords and six Democratic Senators from the Environment and Public Works Committee first sought information on the impacts on human health and the environment of the Administration's proposed plans to reform New Source Review in December 2001. EPA has repeatedly not done so and has been unable to document or justify its deregulatory changes on the grounds that they would be beneficial to the environment or public health, despite promises to do so. EPA and the Administration have also severely and in an unprecedented fashion restricted the information provided to Congress on New Source Review, particularly regarding the legal justification for their actions. The EPA Inspector General concluded recently (August 2004) that the 2003 NSR changes have "...seriously hampered the EPA enforcement office's settlement activities [on the enforcement cases filed under Clinton], existing enforcement cases, and the development of future cases." The NRC interim was not able to come to many conclusions as of yet. The report notes that data are sparse and this is a very complicated matter. This echoes the GAO findings (August 2003) which found that EPA had relied on anecdotal information from industries in deregulating because it lacked comprehensive data. GAO recommended that EPA collect data to monitor the rule's effects to determine whether it might create adverse effects. EPA has made no constructive changes in response to any of the GAO reports and recommendations that have been issued on this matter or in response to Congressional requests for this information. Jeffords continued, "I am pleased that the NRC is taking a very thorough and comprehensive look at this important program and the changes that the Bush Administration has tried to make to it. I believe that the Federal government should act to deregulate only when it can be convincingly shown that human health and the environment will not be harmed or will benefit. EPA has not yet made that case about these changes and appears to have acted with undue haste to deregulate and without appropriate regard for human life," "We have to understand the value and benefits of important Clean Air Act programs like NSR before we eliminate them through deregulation or through legislation. The NRC report states that EPA estimated in 2001 that just a small part of the NSR program cut 1.4 million tons of air pollution annually. We can't just throw away benefits like that and exempt hundreds or thousands of major sources from control as the Administration's "reform" changes would have us do." "Perhaps even more important, the Administration advertises erroneously that its air pollution proposal - "Clear Skies" - will set caps so low that we can eliminate NSR and abolish or weaken other important Clean Air Act programs, including the deadlines to achieve attainment of national air quality standards. The NRC interim report doesn't seem to see it that way. So, I see no reason to revise or change NSR or any part of the Clean Air Act until the Administration can prove with real evidence and data, not public relations campaigns and 'sound-bite science,' that changes will result in net improvements. This is especially true given the NRC statement below." Here's what the NRC report says on page 17, Chapter on Regulatory Overview - "Clear Skies would exempt modifications at existing facilities from NSR and would exempt new utility plants from most NSR requirements (footnote #9 - New utility plants locating within 50 kilometers of a Class I area, such as a national park, would have to conduct an analysis of the air quality impacts on the park. Present law does not limit the analysis to plants within 50 kilometers) In exchange, the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for power plants would be tightened. But the new NSPS would not apply to all modifications currently covered by NSR. Moreover, as time passes, NSR control technology determinations become more stringent than NSPS because of advances in control technology. It is therefore unlikely that Clear Skies would result in emission limits at individual sources that are tighter than those achieved when NSR is triggered at the same sources."