Bush Administration Quietly Working to Weaken Clean Air Act

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to relax air quality rules and make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other pollution-emitting enterprises near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's ten regional administrators have formally opposed the plan. The push to weaken the Clean Air Act involves changing the method used to measure air pollution near national parks so that pollution is averaged over much longer periods, effectively diluting large spikes and protecting polluters from violating the law. Mark Wenzler, who directs clean-air programs for the National Parks Conservation Association, remarked that "The Bush administration's staunch commitment to coal is so deep that they're willing to sacrifice our national parks on the way out the door." Jeffrey R. Holmstead, who served as chief of EPA's air and radiation office, helped initiate the change. Holmstead has since left EPA and now works at the power industry legal and lobbying firm Bracewell & Giuliani.