There are some small obscure items that fly way under the public’s radar that can have an enormous impact on individuals and society. One of those is a regulation called NSR. That stands for New Source Review and falls under the Clean Air Act. This regulation for coal fired power plants controls the definition of what constitutes general maintenance and what is considered an upgrade. This matters a HUGE amount because if a plant is doing maintenance then there is no requirement to upgrade its pollution controls to “current and best standards”. On the other hand, if the work is considered an upgrade it is considered a “new source” and means that the plant must spend whatever is required to meet current pollution control standards. That can cause a plant to close in so far as the capital required would make the operation unprofitable.

Consider this: if a 40 year old plant is allowed to replace 25% of its equipment every year, it could completely replace its machinery in four years and still put out the same emissions that it did 40 years ago which are horrific compared to what is required today. That could allow the plant to keep running for maybe another 40 years spewing out CO2 and other particulate matter and poisons that we know are killing people (and animals) and causing other human health problems. On the other hand, if the limit is 5 or 10% that creates a completely different scenario. This “simple” regulation has been used by different Administrations to either essentially subsidize coal plants or, by making the public health a bigger priority, cause the plants to either upgrade or close. Either way, the public health improves.

So why would anyone be surprised that Scott Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, which administers these regulations, would be moving to increase the NSR percentage in order to help the coal industry continue to operate filthy plants at the expense of your health? And if you live in Chicago or thereabouts, which many of you do, and can’t think of how this might affect you, think again. Are you aware that one of the oldest and dirtiest plants in the country is right up the lakeshore from us in Waukegan? Many of us are trying to get it shut down but changing the NSR could potentially help keep it running indefinitely.

Once again, let me point out that elections matter. Who runs our government affects the public’s health regardless of race, creed or color or, for that matter, party affiliation.


“In recent months, EPA has taken steps to alter the agency’s interpretation of NSR, a rule under the Clean Air Act that governs emissions from new and modified sources.”


“”You published a huge giant loophole allowing sources to increase their toxic air pollutants with no consequences.””

“The potential health impacts of such a rule change are likely to be central to the debate, as EPA pollution rules are based on human health indicators. But during the hearing, Pruitt could not say whether EPA had considered health consequences before it ended “once in, always in.”


Pruitt: EPA will seek ‘comprehensive rule’ to alter New Source Review

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