WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I - Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Environment Committee today expressed his sadness and outrage at the Bush Administration’s final decision to relax clean air enforcement rules governing older coal-fired power plants and refineries. The rule changes, known as “New Source Review,” would allow these power plants, built before 1970, to increase emissions without the threat of lawsuits and without having to add antipollution equipment now required by law to control smog, acid rain and soot. Jeffords will join a lawsuit to overturn the rule and said the new air quality rules will have devastating impact on public health and the environment. “I am deeply saddened by the final rule released today by the Bush Administration on New Source Review. This is worse than even expected. It undermines the environmental legacy of the first President Bush and guts decades of progress we’ve made on cleaning up dirty power plants. This rule is a victory for polluting power plants and devastating defeat for public health and the environment. Instead of offering us a future of clear skies, this rule offers us a future of skies filled with more smog, more soot and more pollution,” said Jeffords. There are 540 grandfathered plants around the country and they produce 51% of all the electricity generated in the U.S. annually. They are responsible for the vast majority of air pollution from the power sector, including 98% of sulfur dioxide “soot” (SO2) and 92% of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) from power plants. The General Accounting Office (GAO) on August 25th, 2003, released a report, requested by Jeffords, that says the EPA did not have that necessary data to support their claim that the NSR rules finalized in December would reduce air pollution. GAO’s criticism is just as valid for the upcoming final rule, since EPA can not justify that rule with data. The Clean Air Task Force reviewed modeling analysis by EPA of pollution reductions of this magnitude. EPA found that the amount of pollution allowed to remain in the air by the upcoming changes would mean: * At least 20,000 additional premature deaths per year, * At least 400,000 additional asthma attacks per year, and * At least 12,000 additional cases of chronic bronchitis per year.