CINCINNATI (AP) _ Environmentalists and energy industry executives are getting a chance to tell the government how they think the Clean Air Act should be applied to power plants and oil refineries.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to gather public comment at a hearing in Cincinnati on Tuesday, and in three other cities at later this month.
At issue is the EPA's ``new source review'' program, which was incorporated into the Clean Air Act in 1977 to ensure that new sources of pollution, and the expansion of existing sources, do not hinder progress toward cleaning up the nation's air.
The EPA is assessing whether the program could be changed to encourage more efficient use of energy resources while maintaining air quality.
Energy industry officials complain the government is using the policy to hold existing plants to excessively tight standards when routine maintenance and replacement work is performed. That has increased costs and disrupted plant maintenance, in some cases curtailing power generation, the officials say.
Environmentalists say the Bush administration and energy companies hope to water down enforcement of federal clean-air laws applied to power plants and oil refineries. If anything, the government should enforce those laws more vigorously, Sierra Club spokesman Glen Brand said Monday.
The evaluation of the new source review program was ordered by an energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. In May, the task force proposed a plan to increase supplies of oil, gas and nuclear energy, and predicted the need for 1,300 new power plants.
Hearings are planned for Thursday in Sacramento, Calif., July 17 in Boston and July 20 in Baton Rouge, La. The EPA is to report to the president by Aug. 17.