Inhofe's plan to let rules stand is approved
(Photo from the Office of Sen. James Inhofe )

In a victory for the Bush administration, the Senate has defeated a Democratic-led attempt to put off implementation of new federal air-pollution rules pending a study. On Jan. 22, the Senate rejected a proposal by John Edwards (D-N.C.) to delay for six months the "New Source Review" regulations the Environmental Protection Agency announced in November.

The rules, which EPA has slated to take effect March 3, help determine when upgrades to powerplants, petroleum refineries and factories also require their owners to install advanced pollution-control equipment.

Edwards' proposal to delay regs is rejected
(Photo from the Office of Sen. John Edwards)

After Edwards' proposal--an amendment to a pending omnibus spending measure--was defeated by 50 to 46, the Senate approved a rider offered by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to allow the rules to take effect as scheduled in March, but also have the National Academy of Sciences carry out a study on the effects of the new regulations.

Edwards' plan would have put the rules on hold until the NAS completed a study.

Though the Senate votes represent a win for the administration, EPA still faces a lawsuit from a group of Attorneys General from Eastern states, who have challenged the NSR rules in federal court. They argue that the regulations violate the Clean Air statute.

The EPA has said the rules will make the air cleaner and adhere to the Clean Air Act, but environmentalists contend they will worsen pollution.

Industry welcomed the Senate action. Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said, "The clear message is that it is time for the federal government to continue the process of making the NSR program more rational."

But Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, countered, "The Senate threw away a chance to stop the Bush administration's plan to weaken the Clean Air Act and make protecting the health and safety of families and communities a priority."