Statement By Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Regarding The Federal Department Of Justice Clean Air Act Report

The Justice Department report released today places a bipartisan stamp of approval on clean air lawsuits begun by my office two years ago.

Two successive federal administrations have now endorsed suits to compel power plants and other air pollution sources to reduce air pollution. Through this endorsement, the Department of Justice is agreeing with EPA and my office that many coal-fired power plants violated the Clean Air Act when they made major modifications without installing the necessary pollution controls.

We hope that the Northeast will finally see improved air quality with reduced urban smog, acid rain and respiratory disease.

We hope that this vote of confidence for the Clean Air Act lawsuits, will encourage the EPA to stay the course on New Source Review enforcement. Indeed, in light of the strong re-affirmation of the reasonableness of EPA’s – and our – understanding of the Clean Air Act, it would be inconsistent and unreasonable for the federal government to abandon future enforcement efforts.

The Justice Department’s report also supports a concern I have raised with the Vice-President – that it appears that the EPA is being supplanted by the Department of Energy in considering changes to Clean Air Act enforcement. This report notes that it is EPA, not any other agency, with whom Clean Air Act determinations properly rest.

We now await the next Bush Administration report on the overall status of the New Source Review Program. If the EPA makes an equally strong commitment to the continued full implementation of the Clean Air Act, the result will be cleaner air, reduced damage from acid rain and smog, and less respiratory disease.

If the administration takes a different course and attempts to weaken Clean Air Act regulations, then this positive effect of the DOJ report will be viewed as only disingenuous camouflage of another capitulation to the President’s industry supporters. In that case, the environment and public health will be damaged severely.