Study Says Clean Air Rules More Costly for Rural Areas, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: A University of North Texas (UNT) study just released says the Clinton Administration EPA’s interpretations of New Source Review (NSR) regulations for power plants would have a costly effect on rural areas. These interpretations are being challenged in court and the Bush Administration has not yet released its decision whether to suggest changes to them. In the past, new pollution control equipment did not need to be installed when doing routine maintenance on power plants. However, the EPA in 1999 changed the definition of “maintenance” to greatly increase the number of plants that need to install this equipment. Because more coal-fired power plants are in rural America, this added cost to power companies places a greater burden on the already struggling rural economy.

“Rural America is probably in the direst economic straits since the Great Depression,” says the report. “Rising electricity costs due to compliance with the EPA’s new interpretation of NSR requirements will likely fall disproportionately on rural businesses and households, especially those with the least financial ability to pay higher utility rates. This will add to the disincentives of rural living and may well contribute to the already accelerating loss of population, family farms, and home-based business in many rural areas of the United States.”

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: President Bush should use the findings from this study to put common sense rules in place to maintain clean air without raising electricity prices and putting people out of work.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: While the U.S. is still trying to recover from a slowdown in the economy we do not need to burden power companies with regulations that will raise electric rates and cause job layoffs. What we need is common sense clean air rules and not punitive ones that don’t achieve their goals.

DISCUSSION: “In the debate over NSR not much attention has been paid to the impact on rural communities,” said Bernard Weinstein, director of UNT’s Center for Economic Development and Research and one of the report’s authors, as quoted by E&E News. “Most of rural America is already facing hard economic times, and this is just another disincentive for living, manufacturing or relocating to rural America.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: See the full report at

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