The Environmental Protection Agency inspector general has said a rules revision by the agency relaxing requirements that older pollution sources update their controls has harmed the country's efforts to cut smog and air pollution levels. In a report released late Thursday, Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley criticized the agency's decision to relax New Source Review requirements, which generally require utilities to meet new air quality standards if enough modifications are made to facilities. Under the rules change made in October 2003, utilities can make greater improvements before triggering New Source Review. The rules change was stayed in December 2003 by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The report concluded:
Fourteen States, several cities, and environmental groups sued EPA over the 2003 NSR rule change, resulting in the December 2003 stay. Their concerns included insufficient support for how the 20-percent threshold was selected and the adverse impact on enforcement actions. We found little basis for the 20-percent threshold, and we saw no evidence that the percent of routine maintenance in ongoing enforcement actions was considered by OAR in determining the threshold. EPA recently announced its plans to reconsider the 2003 NSR rule before the court stay is lifted. This is an excellent opportunity for EPA to fully consider in an open, public, and transparent manner the environmental impact of proposed NSR changes at varying levels, including the impact on OECA enforcement activities.Read the full report [PDF]. Read this press release from Tinsley's office and EPA's statement in reply. EPA has more on New Source Review. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the rules have been a source of contention between EPA officials. The New York Times has more.