Bush proposal could reverse gains in fight against pollution

Madigan urges caution as court approves landmark settlement including Archer Daniels Midland

CHICAGO—Despite concern over the recent proposed rollback of a key provision of the federal Clean Air Act, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a federal court has approved an unprecedented settlement initially announced last April among Illinois, the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company, the federal government and 10 other states.

While the court’s approval makes official an agreement crafted to decrease air pollution from ADM facilities across the United States, Madigan said she is concerned that a Bush administration proposal unveiled weeks ago will allow increases in air pollution.

“The court’s approval of this consent decree is a victory for public health and the environment,” Madigan said. “However, we will have to fight to ensure that the reductions in air pollution obtained from this settlement are not lost due to the increased emissions of pollutants that will be allowed by the recent rollback of air pollution regulations by the Bush administration.”

Under the consent decree entered on Aug. 21 by Judge Harold A. Baker of the Central District of Illinois, Illinois is slated to receive nearly $5 million to be spent on the following programs:

• $371,500 in civil penalties will be paid into the Environmental Protection Trust Fund.

• $2.3 million will be used for the initial seed money for Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s new “Clean School Bus Program.”

• $250,000 will be directed to IEPA for distribution to local non-profit watershed management programs to fund natural resource restoration and water quality enhancement.

• $1 million is slated for the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) to aid in acquisition or restoration of endangered habitat. The ICF will work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and private groups such as the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation, in identifying land for acquisition.

• $50,000 will go to the Midwest Environmental Enforcement Association, which trains government personnel.

• $1 million will be directed to the Attorney General’s State Projects and Court Ordered Distribution Fund and will be used for future environmental enforcement.

The consent decree resolves government concerns that ADM facilities across the country—including facilities in Decatur, Galesburg, Peoria, Quincy and Taylorville—broke state and federal air pollution laws by failing to limit pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Under the consent decree, ADM is required over the next 10 years to decrease air pollution from its Illinois plants by an estimated 27,000 tons annually.

On Aug. 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules that relax requirements for existing factories, chemical plants and power plants to upgrade their pollution control equipment upon equipment replacement. A Clean Air Act provision, known as New Source Review, limits emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, lead, carbon monoxide, VOCs and soot when existing power plants modify or upgrade their equipment. The EPA has provided an exclusion from NSR requirements for plant modifications that are “routine maintenance, repair and replacement.”

The recent rule provides that any “routine maintenance, repair and replacement” costing less than 20 percent of the capital costs of the unit in question is considered routine, and thus, does not require a pollution control upgrade. However, federal courts have held the Clean Air Act is triggered by equipment replacements far less costly than the 20 percent threshold allowed by this new rule.

“These new rules will severely limit the number of equipment replacement projects that require simultaneous pollution control upgrades. I will act aggressively to fight any rollbacks that threaten the health of Illinois families or the environment,” Madigan said.

In February, Madigan sued the Bush administration regarding a separate rollback that also weakened the NSR requirements of the Clean Air Act and allows more air pollution. That case is pending in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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