Statement By A.G. Eliot Spitzer Regarding The Federal Government's Weakening Of The Clean Air Act

Media reports today indicate that President Bush will soon announce relaxing air pollution regulations at old, dirty, coal-fired power plants. This would be the most serious attack on the Clean Air Act since it was signed into the law by President Nixon and would shatter a 30-year history of bi-partisan cooperation in pursuit of clean air.

New York has been especially hard hit by the ravages of air pollution. I sued a number of coal-burning power plants that are violating the Clean Air Act in the Midwest and in New York State. Until President Bush took office, the Environmental Protection Agency was our partner in these lawsuits. Now, the Bush administration is capitulating on this most important enforcement strategy.

Since the lawsuits were filed, medical evidence linking power plant pollution to damaged health has become even more compelling. We have known for years that pollution from power plants exacerbates respiratory illnesses. A long-term study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that air pollution -- to which coal-fired power plants are a major contributor --I has the same impact as second-hand smoke in causing lung cancer. At the same time, lakes and streams in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains continue to suffer from acid rain. At a time when we should be strengthening the Clean Air Act, the Bush Administration is doing just the opposite.

With or without the federal government as a partner in the fight for clean air, I will continue to pursue our lawsuits against the coal plants that are violating the law. On January 15, 2002, the Justice Department released a report re-affirming the soundness of our legal position. There is no reason to back down now.