The federal EPA has announced that it will waive all enforcement actions against California power plants and diesel generators that violate the federal Clean Air Act setting air pollution emissions standards, a governmental spokesperson told edie on 1 February. The action is only valid in California and was made so that that the state can produce more power during its ongoing crisis, which is now in its third week (see related story), the official said.

“Until now, it has only covered one plant in Glendale which has had violations and where we are relaxing restrictions,” she said. “But for the most part most Clean Air Act regulations are not adding to the power crisis.”. The EPA has often been accused of impeding power production by imposing unnecessary and expensive clean air rules. The California Senate has also approved a plan allowing the state to issue up to $10 billion in bonds to purchase power to keep electricity flowing, the spokeswoman said.

Concerned with the situation in California, President George W. Bush announced on 29 January that Vice President Dick Cheney would create a federal task force solely to address “high energy prices” and US dependence on foreign oil. Republicans have already announced their intention to increase domestic fuel capacity by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling (see related story). “We’re very aware in this administration that the situation in California is beginning to affect neighbouring states,” Bush said.

However, environmentalists remain sceptical about the moves. “President Bush has wasted no time in declaring that the ‘energy crisis’ warrants a rollback in environmental regulations,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of the conservation NGO, American Rivers. “This is hasty, unwise, and unnecessary, and it’s not what the American people voted for on Election Day. The short term energy problems that California is experiencing are the fault of poor management and maintenance by the utility corporations themselves, combined with a failed state deregulation scheme. The new president should not try to blame those problems on citizens who want their environment protected, or imagine that rolling back environmental protections will solve them.”

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