EPA has issued final and proposed rules designed to modify the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) provisions by offering power plants and other industrial facilities, in EPA's words, "greater flexibility to improve and modernize their operations in ways that will reduce energy use and air pollution, provide incentives to install state-of-the-art pollution controls, and more accurately calculate actual emissions of air pollution."

Green groups attacked the new rules, claiming that they loosen the NSR provisions and will lead to more pollution. Attorneys general in several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have announced that they will file suit to prevent the rules from taking effect.

"Why is it considered too expensive to expand or produce more when you have to comply with environmental regulations? Shouldn't it be the cost of doing business?" asks an environmental manager on an Internet list-serv.

"The new rules permit new facilities with less pollution control equipment than the previous rules, which in turn were not controlling particulate matter enough," argues Franklin E. Mirer, Ph.D., CIH, Health and Safety Department, International Union, United Auto Workers.

"It's not like this idea is rocket science. Changing the rules to encourage utilities to undertake upgrades that produce a net benefit in pollution, even if they don't go as far as would be required under a New Source Performance Standard, seems to me to be eminently sensible. We get improved efficiency, reduced pollution, at a reasonable cost," counters attorney David Sarvardi.