The Environmental Protection Agency will relax air pollution rules to make it easier for utilities to upgrade and expand their coal-burning power plants, Bush administration sources said yesterday.
The long-awaited announcement, expected today, will give industry greater flexibility in expanding electricity production without having to install additional emissions controls.
The utility industry had lobbied intensely for the rule changes, arguing that the regulations have inhibited expansion of facilities. Vice President Cheney's energy task force urged a reexamination of the air pollution regulations more than 15 months ago.
But environmentalists have maintained that the current regulations ensure that utilities install additional pollution controls when they modernize or expand their plants to produce more electricity.
Cheney's task force urged that the overhaul be completed in 90 days, but the issue became embroiled in an internal debate over how far the agency should go in easing requirements for the utilities.
EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said the administration wanted modest changes while the Energy Department and some White House aides had argued for stronger action.
Administration sources said yesterday that the changes would include giving utilities the ability to expand production by loosening the threshold that would trigger a requirement for new pollution controls.
Utilities would be allowed to use pollution levels from any two consecutive years during the past 10 to establish an emissions baseline that will determine how much additional pollution will be allowed before the controls kick in.
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