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Georgians urge EPA to fight Southern Co. pollution 

A handful of Georgia environmentalists did their best Don Quixote impression last week when they told a federal panel that Atlanta's air will get even worse if the Bush administration allows power companies to modify their plants without upgrading pollution controls.

At issue is the New Source Review program, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiative. Back in 1999, the Justice Department and the EPA filed lawsuits against eight power companies, including Atlanta-based Southern Co., for violating the review program when those companies allegedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve plant productivity without improving their pollution controls.

After intense lobbying by Southern Co. and other electric utilities, Bush ordered EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to review the NSR program and report back to the White House by Aug. 17. Part of that review involves getting public input. The EPA hosted a grand total of four public meetings to gather public comments for and against the NSR program. (For more info, go to www.epa.gov/air/nsr-review/).

The regional hearing was last Friday in Baton Rouge, La., which was attended by a handful of Georgians, including David Word, state Environmental Protection Division assistant director, and Ed Arnold, executive director of the Atlanta chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Colleen Kiernan, a coordinator for the Georgia Environmental Enforcement Project, told the EPA that the review of the NSR program "is simply a gimmick of the Bush Administration to give industrial polluters three months to lobby for [a] rollback of the Clean Air Act."

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