A Con Edison power plant in New York City.
A Con Edison power plant in New York City. - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal:
There is something like three months left in the Bush administration.
Plenty of time to move the levers of power.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed today that agency's going to do just that. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner explains.

Sarah Gardner:
Aging power plants that want to upgrade and run more efficiently have to pass a pollution test first. If their dirty emissions exceeds a certain yearly output, the plant has to install expensive pollution controls. Under the EPA's rule change, those emissions would be judged on an hourly basis instead. Critics say this effectively allows these pepped-up plants that can now run more hours to keep doing business as usual. John Walke is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

John Walke: So in the real world, harmful pollution from power plants goes up. The Bush administration pretends like the pollution is not going up, on paper. And therefore power plants don't have to install controls to protect the public.

Defenders of the rule change say the current law triggers time-consuming reviews for relatively minor plant upgrades. They also point to another EPA rule that helps keep overall emissions in check. But a federal appeals court this summer unexpectedly rejected the so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. Dan Reidinger speaks for the electric power industry.

Dan Reidinger: We've cut pollution in half since 1980 and there's absolutely no question that something will replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule and obviously we're looking at greenhouse gas regulation just around the corner.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who's tussled with the EPA over other issues, has threatened to investigate the agency if it finalizes the new rule.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner