hearing for the entire Northeast will be held in Albany on
Monday (March 31) to discuss controversial proposed changes
to the Clean Air Act.
Protection Agency (EPA) scheduled hearings around the country
to provide a forum on its proposed changes to the New Source
Review program (NSR). NSR is a program under the EPA’s Clean
Air Act that subjects new and existing pollution sources—such
as power plants and refineries, as well as existing sources
that are making emissions-increasing modifications—to review
so that they meet current standards for air emissions.
came in reaction to the number of requests “received in a
timely manner from interested parties across the nation,”
according to a press release on EPA’s Web site (www.epa.gov).
Advocates of New York is one of the interested parties, and
they contend that the changes would significantly weaken the
Clean Air Act.
changes] would really limit who has to go through NSR,” said
Ann Reynolds, director of the Air and Energy Project with
Environmental Advocates in the Capital Region.
would put in place a provision that would allow plants to
replace equipment without triggering a review, as well as
a cost-threshold provision that would also permit companies
to forgo review, as long as they didn’t break the cost limit
set by the EPA.
Wehrun, the EPA’s officer in charge of the hearing in Albany,
explained that the purpose of the new regulation is to create
uniform standards applicable to all pollution-emitting companies
under the EPA’s watch.
argues that the changes would create loopholes that would
allow companies to avoid the EPA’s regulation.
power plant could . . . almost totally rebuild their plant,”
Reynolds said, “and they would never trigger New Source Review,
as long as they did it over several years.”
enough, the changes were brought about in part by lawsuits
with which the EPA was involved, filed because of companies
that were already finding loopholes in the NSR program.
of [the companies] started to settle the lawsuits and agreed
to huge pollution reductions,” Reynolds said. “[But] when
the Bush administration came into power they started negotiating
with them about changing the rules.”
public hearings are the EPA’s response to those who believe
the changes will weaken the Clean Air Act.
is just a proposed rule. Part of what we’ve asked for comment
on is how it should be calibrated,” Wehrun said. “We’ve asked
for people to send us information and give us their comments.
. . . If people are concerned that our final rule might have
the effect of weakening the Clean Air Act, we want people
to send us those comments and send us information that will
be useful to us in making the right decision at the end of
has set up a comment line for people who would like to express
their views on the proposed changes (919-541-0211), and urges
people to check its New Source Review Web page at http://www.epa.gov/nsr.
will take place at the Marriott Hotel (189 Wolf Road) at 9
AM. A rally is planned to also start at 9 AM at the Marriott.
Organizers invite the public to come for the rally and stay
to attend the hearing, which is expected to go on until 10
Many Children Left Behind?
Alliance for Quality Education—a statewide nonprofit coalition
that includes parents, children’s advocates, schools, teachers,
clergy, labor unions and business leaders—gives Gov. George
E. Pataki’s proposed 2003-04 education budget a resounding
report released on March 19, titled “Separate and Unequal:
Pataki’s Budget Cuts Hit Struggling Schools the Hardest,”
AQE charges that Pataki’s proposed $1.24 billion reduction
in education spending will place an undue burden on schools
that are already struggling—specifically, on those 485 schools
in New York that have been designated as “in need of improvement”
under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (meaning they do
not meet standards as measured by state tests and do not make
adequate yearly progress to conform to those standards.) Albany
County has four NCLB schools.
to the AQE report, the 65 New York school districts that contain
at least one NCLB school are already spending approximately
$2,000 less per child than other districts. Under Pataki’s
plan, the disparity in state aid would increase even more—up
to 45 percent more—in these NCLB districts. Programs that
would be categorically slashed under the proposed budget—such
as early-grade class-size reduction, universal pre-kindergarten
and full-day kindergarten—have proven track records of raising
student achievement further down the road. Teacher layoffs
under the proposed budget would further cripple already struggling
Eaton, AQE executive director, notes that the proposed cuts
will go beyond affecting schools that are currently experiencing
financial and academic difficulties. “In addition to schools
that are already struggling, the cuts will add more schools
to that list,” she says. “Some schools are barely hanging
in there now, and they will be devastated. . . . The sad thing
is that early-education programs, like pre-kindergarten, were
put in districts that were struggling first, with the thought
that the earlier you teach kids how to learn, the better chance
they’ll have at learning,” she says.
is cautiously optimistic that the Legislature will, in the
coming days, step in to override Pataki’s education cuts.
“New York City is looking at laying off 2,000 to 4,000 teachers,
which is huge,” she points out. “And in smaller cities, such
as Yonkers, the high percentage of teacher layoffs will be,
to use a term of Pataki’s, ‘community killing.’”