Congressional Advisory Panel Urges Overhaul, Strengthening of New Source Review

April 25, 2003
A congressional advisory panel this week called for a crackdown on pollution from aging factories and coal-fired power plants and criticized efforts by the Bush administration to weaken clean air enforcement rules governing utilities, refineries, and industrial plants.

An independent study released by the National Academy of Public Administration concludes that the New Source Review (NSR) program under the Clean Air Act is not working as intended. The two-year independent study was commissioned by Congress.

"Contrary to congressional intent, many large, highly polluting facilities have continued to operate and have expanded their production (and pollution) over the past 25 years without upgrading to cleaner technologies," the report said. "The result: thousands of premature human deaths, and many thousand additional cases of acute illnesses and chronic diseases caused by air pollution."

Titled "A Breath of Fresh Air: Reviving the New Source Review Program," the report concludes that the NSR program is effective in controlling air pollution from newly built industrial facilities, but it performs poorly in reducing pollution from the nation's oldest and dirtiest factories and power plants. The report also finds that NSR's unpredictable and lengthy permitting process is detrimental to facilities that want to change operations quickly and compete effectively.

The study urges Congress to retain NSR but to strengthen its impact by ending grandfathering, vigorously enforcing NSR's permitting requirements for existing facilities, and improving EPA and state information systems and public accountability.

The Academy's also urged Congress to amend the Clean Air Act to adopt a compulsory, three-tiered, performance-based system that will require facilities to reduce air pollution. The three trading tiers will include cap-and-trade, cap-and-net, and unit-cap approaches to emissions reduction.

The report's most controversial suggestion may be that emission limits for each tier should be based on the performance level of the cleanest technology available.

Finally, the report suggests that the NSR program anticipate future environmental challenges and adopt reforms that provide regulatory certainty while ensuring that the public health and the environment will be protected.

The Academy panel responsible for the study was chaired by Don Kettl, professor of public affairs and political science, and former director of the Robert M. LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The National Academy of Public Administration is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan corporation chartered by Congress to provide "trusted advice" on issues of governance and public management.

"A Breath of Fresh Air" is available at

Alcoa Continues Commitment to Sustainability With Release of 2002 Sustainability Report

Alcoa marked Earth Day 2003 with the release of its 2002 Sustainability Report, a detailed, data-based review of the company's global, environmental, social and economic performance. The report is available online at

In releasing the report, Alcoa Chairman and CEO, Alain Belda said that it represented another milestone in Alcoa's long tradition of measuring performance against the high standards set by the company and reporting publicly on progress made.

"Truth can be judged by performance, so data and factual information pervade this report," said Belda. "We have presented information that yields meaningful insight into our global operations, where we are making progress and where we are not yet performing to the standards we set for ourselves," he said.

Belda attributed the achievements outlined in the report to the hard work of 127,000 Alcoa employees in 40 countries. "Alcoa's employees are working effectively to drive waste from the value chain, from the natural resources that make our products all the way through the supply chain to the customer. That is how we secure the benefits and reduce the cost for our business, our customers, our communities, and our world. This is how we demonstrate leadership.' he said.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The best safety performance in Alcoa's history with more than 99% of Alcoa employees recording no lost work days due to injury.
  • Significant progress in contributing to the fight on climate change with a 22.5% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from
    1990 levels - well beyond the targets outlined at Kyoto.
  • Reductions in total process water use of 13%, reductions in global sulfur dioxide emissions of 13% and 23% reduction in
    emissions of nitrogen oxides, all over the past three years.
  • Community giving - more than $34 million in 2002 alone - and commitment to an innovative global program designed to deliver "More than Money."

Much of the environmental, social, and economic data in the report have been regularly reported in one form or another by Alcoa for decades, but this is the first time that they have been drawn together to provide an integrated view of the company's performance. This report serves as a complementary volume to Alcoa's 2002 Annual Report.

National EPA Initiative Goes Beyond Cleanup and Focuses on Returning Sites Back to Productive Reuse

On Earth Day 2003 in Chicago, EPA announced a comprehensive new initiative to require the early consideration of land reuse in all cleanup decisions within the Agency's programs known as Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Underground Storage Tanks, and Brownfields. The initiative called the Land Revitalization Agenda, outlines over 60 specific ways to help integrate land reuse into EPA's cleanup programs. Under the agenda, EPA will leverage grant resources across multiple federal cleanup programs to facilitate cleanup and reuse. In addition, EPA will test the use of written technical determinations stating that cleaned-up properties are ready for reuse.

"This is the Earth Day message for the new millennium: cleanup alone is not enough," said Marianne Lamont Horinko, EPA Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "Cleanup is the first step, and the most important, but we must make these sites available to the community, to provide jobs, needed tax revenues and recreational benefits that were not there before. Under this new initiative, revitalization and reuse will be a formal part of our planning at every single site we clean up under every single program we manage– it's not discretionary, and it's not a pilot program." Horinko unveiled the Land Revitalization Agenda today to a group of business leaders at the Union League Club in Chicago. Two main goals of the agenda are to clean up our nation's contaminated land resources so that communities are able to safely return them to productive use and to ensure that cleanups protect public health, welfare, and the environment and that cleanups are consistent with future land use.

Throughout the country, many examples demonstrate the benefits of redevelopment. In Chicago, an Underground Storage Tank Pilot grant helped a redeveloper turn a former abandoned gas station and auto repair shop into low-income housing. In Philadelphia, the Publicker Superfund site was cleaned up and removed from Superfund's National Priorities List, the tax revenue from the site went up by 40 percent and the market value for the area around the site increased by more than $47 million. In Clearwater, Fla., as a result of a Brownfields Pilot grant, a 14-acre site of a former auto service center that was contaminated with underground oil, diesel, and gasoline storage tanks is now home to Information Management Resources Global Center Headquarters. This project has resulted in more than $51 million in capital investment and is the largest business deal in the city's history. Redevelopment plans call for six new buildings with a total of 310,000 square feet of office space. To date, two buildings have opened, employing more than 500 employees. In the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, Md., a 27-acre peninsula was successfully cleaned up under RCRA's Corrective Action Program. Plans for Harbor Point redevelopment call for 1.8 million square feet of mixed-used space, representing up to $400 million in new investment and creating as many as 5,000 jobs.

In January 2002, President Bush signed into law the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, which authorizes up to $250 million per year for Brownfields grants, including up to $50 million for the assessment and cleanup of low-risk petroleum contaminated sites. Since its inception in 1995, the Brownfields Program has awarded over 500 grants to assess Brownfields sites and to make loans to conduct cleanups. EPA announced the first Underground Storage Tank pilot grants in November 2000 and has since awarded 50 grants. As a result of the RCRA Corrective Action Program, EPA and the states now have brought hundreds of RCRA facilities under control. Nearly 40 percent of these sites have either completed or made significant progress in their cleanups.

To learn more about the Land Revitalization Agenda, go to

North Carolina Looks for Environmental Champions

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking to recognize and partner with organizations that keep the environment in mind throughout the year as part of their daily business practices. These organizations are invited to apply for membership in the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI), a voluntary program designed to promote and encourage superior environmental performance.

In its second year, the ESI establishes incentives to stimulate regulated organizations to develop and implement programs that use pollution prevention and other innovative approaches to meet and exceed their regulatory requirements. This program seeks to reduce the impact on the environment beyond measures required by any permit or rule, producing a better environment and a stronger economy and conserving natural resources.

Any organization that operates a facility in North Carolina is eligible to participate in the initiative. This includes but is not limited to manufacturers, businesses, agribusiness, service providers, government agencies, schools and nonprofit agencies.

For more detailed information or to apply for the program, please visit the Environmental Stewardship Initiative Web site at or contact Beth Graves of the Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, at (919) 715-6506 or

EPA Switches to Pollution-Free Wind Power for New York City Offices

Setting an example as an environmentally friendly workplace to mark Earth Day 2003, EPA announced that it will switch to non-polluting wind power for its offices in lower Manhattan.

With the switchover, the EPA Region 2 office, which serves New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will become the first EPA regional office in the country that will be completely powered by wind-generated electricity as well as the largest federal purchaser of clean wind energy in New York State.

"Switching to a non-polluting energy source for our office has a direct and positive impact on our mission to protect public health and the environment," Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny said. "We also hope the switch will inspire other agencies and offices to follow our lead and convert to wind power."

Working with the U.S. General Services Administration, EPA will commit to purchase wind energy from Community Energy, Inc., the leading marketer of emission-free wind energy in the eastern U.S., through arrangements with EPA's existing electric supplier, Constellation NewEnergy.

The wind energy will be generated at New York State's largest wind farm, the Fenner Wind Power Project, located in the town of Fenner in Madison County, New York. The project uses state-of-the-art 1.5 megawatt (MW) wind turbines that have longer, slower-turning blades than older turbines and are highly efficient and very quiet.

EPA's wind energy commitment at its 290 Broadway offices is equal to 6.2 million kilowatt-hours of wind energy for one year, which is equivalent to the annual electrical output of one and a half of the wind turbines at the Fenner project.

EPA's commitment is equivalent to the reduction of over 1,000 barrels of oil and more than 7 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) that would be emitted into the atmosphere annually. The CO2 reduction is equivalent to the amount removed from the air by 450,000 trees or the amount emitted by cars driven 6.3 million miles annually. In addition, the switchover will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by an estimated 34,500 pounds and nitrogen oxides by 12,000 pounds annually.

Nationally, 10 percent of EPA's electricity comes from renewable sources, which serve facilities in California, Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, and Ohio. EPA also developed the Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program that is working to make green-power purchasing a common business practice. Since the program began in the summer of 2001, 117 organizations have committed to green power for a total of 680 million kilowatt hours. Those purchases will help to remove 940 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the air, roughly the same amount absorbed by 130,000 acres of forest.

Region 2 is now also seeking to have its offices in Edison, N.J., convert to green energy.

U.S. Announces Largest Clean Air Act Settlement with Utility

The Department of Justice and EPA announced the largest Clean Air Act enforcement settlement with a power utility. Virginia Electric Power Co. has agreed to spend $1.2 billion between now and 2013 to eliminate 237,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions each year from eight coal-fired electricity generating plants in Virginia and West Virginia.

This settlement resolves charges that the company violated the laws by making major modifications to its power plants without installing equipment to control pollution that causes smog, acid rain and soot. The settlement also reflects the culmination of a well-coordinated partnership between EPA, the Justice Department and the States of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and the National Park Service.

In addition to providing for major pollution reductions, VEPCO agreed to pay a $5.3 million civil penalty and spend at least $13.9 million for projects in each of the five states that participated in the case and its settlement to offset the impact of past emissions. Specifically, VEPCO agreed to projects ranging from retrofitting or otherwise reducing emissions from diesel engines, including those on school buses, to installing photovoltaic cells on municipal buildings, to purchasing conservation easements to preserve environmentally sensitive areas, and to providing alternative-fueled vehicles for use in the Shenandoah National Park.

This settlement requires VEPCO, one of the nation's largest coal-fired electric utilities, to install new pollution control equipment and upgrade existing controls on several units in its system, and will result in substantial pollution reductions. The settlement covers eight VEPCO plants, six in Virginia and two in West Virginia, comprising 20 electricity-generating units. These eight plants emitted over 350,000 tons of SO2 and NOx in 2000. The settlement will reduce these emissions by approximately 67 percent, to 116,000 tons by 2013.

Sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are significant contributors to acid rain; NOx also increases low-level ozone which causes smog; fine particulate matter causes haze and can adversely impact visibility in national parks. All of these pollutants cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the United States District Court in Alexandria, Virginia for a thirty day public comment period.