From: Christopher Wills, Associated Press
Published October 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Illinois EPA Rejects Tougher Pollution Rules for Coal-Burning Plants

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The state Environmental Protection Agency has concluded it would be "irresponsible" for Illinois to act on its own and order coal-burning power plants to reduce the amount of soot and mercury they release into the air.


It recommends that Gov. Rod Blagojevich put aside the idea of imposing tougher standards on 21 older power plants that are now exempt from the strictest federal regulations. Instead, the focus should be on getting the federal government to tighten standards nationwide, according to a summary of the agency's findings released this week.


The study says it's not clear how much air quality would be improved by tighter regulations in just one state. Meanwhile, standards that go beyond what the federal government already imposes might hurt the state's economy, drive up consumer costs, and endanger reliability of the electricity supply, the summary said.


"Moving forward with a state-specific regulatory or legislation strategy without fully understanding all of the critical impacts ... would be irresponsible," the agency concludes. It recommends that the governor continue demanding that the federal government act nationally to reduce power plant emissions.


Environmental activists and health organizations say the old plants endanger Illinois residents, causing 1,700 premature deaths each year, triggering thousands of asthma attacks, and contaminating fish with mercury.


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Rebecca Stanfield, staff attorney with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, called the report disappointing.


"This resembles the industry's talking points, and it does not at all resemble what this agency has said on the topic in the past," she said. "It seems like they have substituted the judgment of scientists and experts with that of the industry."


Blagojevich agrees with the report's conclusion that it would be a mistake for Illinois to act before answering all the questions spelled out in the EPA report, spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said.


Source: Associated Press


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