Leahy, Jeffords, Sorrell Criticize Bush Policies

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(Host) Three of Vermont’s top elected officials Tuesday strongly criticized the Bush administration s plans to ease Clean Air rules. Attorney General William Sorrell went to Capitol Hill to testify before a joint hearing chaired by Senators James Jeffords and Patrick Leahy.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Vermont is part of a lawsuit that aims to force Midwest utilities to clean up their power plants. Attorney General Sorrell says the administration’s proposed changes will allow these coal-fired power plants to operate without installing pollution control technology. And Sorrell told the committee that the administration’s proposed changes in clean air rules will undercut Vermont’s legal case:

(Sorrell) “Now is not the time to water down the laws needed to protect air quality. The announced reforms of the new source review program will take us 180-degrees in the wrong direction. As one state regulator has put it, these reforms will ensure longer lives for old, dirty, coal-fired power plants and shorter lives for Americans.”

(Dillon) Senator Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee and convened the hearing with Jeffords, who chairs the Environment Committee. Leahy said that the Clean Air Act has required power companies to add state-of-the-art pollution control equipment if they upgrade their power plants. According to Leahy, the Clinton administration had begun to crack down on some of the worst polluters.

(Leahy) “Well you may imagine that the largest of these corporate polluters did not like being caught, especially when it meant billions of dollars in fines. So what’d they do? Instead of paying the fines or cutting the pollution they went last year to the new Bush administration for relief. Relief from a regulation they had circumvented for more than a quarter of a century.”

(Dillon) Jeffords has asked the administration to produce documents that detail how it made the decision to roll back the clean air rules. Jeffords says he’s frustrated with the administration’s response.

(Jeffords) “This administration seems to have largely ignored comments from public health advocates and the states while listening mainly to industry. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s legitimate requests for information on this matter and others have been treated disrespectfully and disdainfully by the White House.”

(Dillon) Jeffords says he’ll decide soon whether to subpoena the White House for more documents on its plan to change the clean air rules.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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