The US Justice Department has indicated that it intends to bring lawsuits against operators of some of the country’s dirtiest coal fired power stations. The decision follows an eight month review of the actions, which were launched under the previous administration. The review concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency had a reasonable basis for bringing the suits under the Clean Air Act.

The Bush administration is also reviewing the interpretation of the New Source Review which prompted the suits. This requires a company that makes a modification to an existing plant to obtain new emission permits, and was aimed at preventing expansion of older, high emission plants.

The power industry wants the administration to remove the uncertainty by defining what constitutes a new source of pollution. However the National Resources Defence Council, a group which includes environmentalists, is fearful that as a result the Bush administration will succumb to industry pressure and relax the controls.