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By Chris Flores, Daily Press, Newport News, Va. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 1--RICHMOND, Va.--After folding the commonwealth into the record $1.2-billion settlement of state and federal air pollution charges against Dominion Resources, Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore does not plan to join lawsuits involving Dominion competitors for allegedly breaking the same laws.
Instead, at the request of the Bush administration, Kilgore is leading eight states that are siding with Bush's Environmental Protection Agency in fending off legal action challenging the EPA's right to relax the enforcement of clean air laws -- the very regulations that led to the charges against Richmond-based Dominion.
Kilgore believes the EPA enforcement changes will cause companies to make plant improvements on their own rather than under a threat of penalty. But environmental groups have criticized Kilgore for working to undercut the laws that led to the Dominion charges.
Because of the Dominion settlement and Kilgore's active role in pushing to change clean air regulations, Virginia has moved to the front lines of a battle over modifying the 1970 Clean Air Act that usually pits Democrats and environmental groups against Republicans and industry. The legal fights surround a provision of the act that makes old, coal-fired plants subject to less-stringent pollution standards unless a utility upgrades plants, making them run and pollute more.
The Clinton administration's EPA prosecuted utilities for upgrading plants and calling it …