[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] announced Monday that it would review three new source review rules [EPA press release] that regulate emissions from coal power plants. The announcement comes as the EPA has stepped up its efforts to regulate greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants. The rules in question were promulgated during the administration of former president George W. Bush, and were seen by many as creating loopholes [Reuters report] for coal power plants to escape regulation under the Clean Air Act [text, PDF]. The new source review rules determine when and how power plants are required to account for air emissions that are not released through a stack, vent or other confined air stream, keep records on emissions, and account for air emissions associated with fine particle pollution when obtaining a permit. The EPA's announcement comes the same day as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his determination [DOI press release] that a rule facilitating mountaintop-stripping coal mining practices is "legally deficient," and directed the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to file a pleading with the US District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the rule. Environmental groups expressed surprise at the unexpected determination [AP report] condemning the rule, which was passed by Bush in the waning days of his presidency. In remarks announcing the determination, Salazar said [text, PDF]:
The so-called "stream buffer zone rule" from the previous Administration ... just doesnt pass muster. ... [T]his type of 11th hour rule issued a little over a month before the previous Administration passed office does not adequately protect our waterways and our communities. And it just doesnt pass the smell test.The EPA has recently taken several steps to reverse environmental policies from the Bush administration. Earlier this month, the EPA announced a proposed finding [report, PDF; JURIST report] that atmospheric greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, setting the stage for government regulation of the harmful gases for the first time. Last month, the EPA held a hearing [JURIST report] to reconsider California's request to regulate automobile greenhouse gases. The request had been denied by the EPA during the Bush administration. In July, a US House of Representatives report revealed that the Bush administration abandoned plans to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases on power plants and other stationary pollution sources after opposition from the oil industry [JURIST report]. In April 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority [JURIST report] under the Clean Air Act to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases by automobiles.