October 5, 2011 / 6:25 PM / 8 years ago

EPA easing air quality rule for power plants: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to ease a new air pollution rule that would require power plants in 27 states to slash emissions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The EPA plans to propose as early as this week allowing certain states and companies to emit more pollutants than it previously permitted, the report said.

An agency spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution final rule issued in July calls, in part, for much stricter limits on emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, from coal and natural gas-fired power plants beginning in January.

The changes are expected to allow for emissions increases ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent above the July requirement, depending on the pollutant, the Journal reported, citing the sources.

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “While we don’t have anything to announce at this time, EPA often makes technical adjustments ... because data, including data in some cases provided by industry, turns out to be incorrect, outdated or incomplete.”

The air quality rule resulted from a federal appeals court order instructing the EPA to strengthen a similar regulation issued in 2005 by the Bush administration.

The EPA said the rule would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths and save $280 billion a year in health costs. The pollution is linked to heart attacks and lung problems including asthma.

The rule ran into opposition from industry, states and many congressional Republicans who argued it would kill jobs and could make transmission of electricity unreliable.

Environmentalists had welcomed the EPA rule as a victory for clean air and public health.

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