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14 states fight EPA maneuver that weakens Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON -- More than a dozen state attorneys general yesterday sought to block the federal government from implementing a rule change they argued would lead to more air pollution from the nation's power plants.

Fourteen states, including Massachusetts, and a number of cities -- including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. -- are seeking a court injunction to impede a measure by the Environmental Protection Agency before it goes into effect Dec. 26.

They want to block the EPA's loosening of Clean Air Act regulations that would allow older power plants, refineries, and factories to modernize without having to install expensive pollution controls. "If these rules go into effect even temporarily," said New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, "utilities will get the green light to spew forth pollution and violate the clear meaning of a statute that has for decades protected the quality of the air that we breathe."

To win an injunction, the states must show that they are likely to succeed at a full trial of the issues, and that irreparable harm would be done if the rule change was enacted even for a short period. "Once they begin the pollution, you can never capture that again," Spitzer argued.

The suit was filed in the US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., by the following states: New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The states had filed suit against the EPA last month, but are now seeking a quick court intervention to block the rule change before it can take effect.

"This is just another attempt by the attorney general to delay reforms," said Frank Maisano, of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.

EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman accused Spitzer of "making charges without having facts."

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