E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits

The New York Times
By Coral Davenport
July 12, 2019

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WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to weaken rules that for the past quarter-century have given communities a voice in deciding how much pollution may legally be released by nearby power plants and factories.

The changes would eliminate the ability of individuals or community advocates to appeal against E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. However, the industrial permit-holders could still appeal to the panel, known as the Environmental Appeals Board, to allow them to increase their pollution.

The draft plan was described by three people familiar with the document, who requested anonymity because the proposal is not yet public. The document has been largely completed, they said, and the next step would be to announce the proposed rule change and seek public comment.

“This is outrageous,” said Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard. “Individuals in communities will lose a way to seek relief from pollution that has historically been very effective. But industry will still be able to seek relief to pollute more.”

E.P.A. press officers did not respond to an emailed request for comment.