NAPA Study Shows New Source Review Not Working as Congress Intended

April 22, 2003
The New Source Review (NSR) program under the Clean Air Act is not working as Congress intended, and as a result, the health of the American public is being adversely affected, according to a report released April 21 by the National Academy of Public Administration.

The two-year, independent study, commissioned by Congress, is titled, "A Breath of Fresh Air: Reviving the New Source Review Program." The report concludes that the NSR program is effective in controlling air pollution from newly built industrial facilities, but performs poorly in reducing pollution from the nation's oldest and dirtiest factories and power plants. The report also finds that NSR's unpredictable and lengthy permitting process is detrimental to facilities that want to change operations quickly and compete effectively.

The study urges Congress to retain NSR, but to strengthen its impact by ending grandfathering, vigorously enforcing NSR's permitting requirements for existing facilities, and improving EPA and state information systems and public accountability.

The most innovative recommendation In the report urges Congress to amend the Clean Air Act to adopt a compulsory, three-tiered, performance-based system requiring facilities to reduce air pollution. The three trading tiers will include cap-and-trade, cap-and-net, and unit-cap approaches to emissions reduction. The report suggests emission limits for each tier should be based on the performance level of the cleanest technology available.

Finally, the report suggests that the NSR program anticipate future environmental challenges and adopt reforms that provide regulatory certainty while ensuring that the public health and the environment will be protected.

The panel responsible for the study was chaired by Don Kettl, professor of public affairs and political science and former director of the Robert M. LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Copies of "A Breath of Fresh Air" can be found at

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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