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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray voted to delay a Bush Administration plan to weaken clean air protections by making it easier for industrial polluters to increase emissions without installing new pollution control equipment.

The Senate voted 50-46 against delaying the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) new air quality rules, which are expected to be finalized by March 2003.

"A clean environment is essential to the quality of life for every American," said Murray. "It is sad to see that, once again, the air that we all breathe is taking a back seat to polluters and special interests."

The new EPA regulations will make it easier for major industrial sources of air pollution to increase emissions without having to install new pollution control equipment.

Murray and her colleagues sought to delay the EPA's so-called "New Source Review" rules for six months until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed an analysis of whether the new rules would affect children and adults suffering from asthma and other breathing ailments. By a vote of 51-45 the Senate approved an amendment requiring a NAS study by 2004, but did not delay the relaxation of environmental rules.

One significant impact of the new rules is that they undermine ongoing EPA enforcement actions against power plants that have violated New Source Review rules in the past.

"I am particularly concerned about the harmful effects of relaxed air standards on our most vulnerable residents - especially children, the elderly and those suffering from asthma," Murray said. "As our region continues to grow, air pollution will put a real strain on these groups and on the quality of life we in Washington state hold so dear. I will continue to fight these efforts to undermine 30 years of progress towards ensuring that Americans have clean air and water."