Viginia Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman told a congressional inquiry yesterday that relaxing some federal environmental rules would help assure his state of adequate electric power this year and in the future.
Public health or clean air standards would not be endangered, Coleman said, if Congress stretches out the time during which power-generating plants are permitted to continue burning high-sulfur oil or emitting limited amounts of coal soot.
He also called for setting less restrictive standards than current federal law for coal strip mines in Southwest Virginia.
Coleman insited the steps could be taken without abandoning environmental goals, but he drew a mild rebuke from Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), a member of a special House District of Columbia subcommittee exploring the possibility that the region may experience power shortages this summer.
Barnes said he interpreted Coleman's statement as advocacy of air pollution. Coleman said he merely wanted a review of the rules without preconceived notions or an ideological bais.
"Based on some reports I've heared in Virginia," Coleman said, "it appears that the [U.S. Environmental Protection] Agency has put textbook purity ahead of environment cleanliness and good sense."
Subcommittee chairman Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.) called for "greater sharing of the [electricla] generating capacity that exists within the region."
He criticized the Virginal Electric & Power Co. for dropping out of a regional pool in 1971 that provided for such sharing.
Vepco's presidnet, Stanley Ragone, testified Thursday that his firm now buys power as needed from utilities serving negihbouring areas, but has no long-term arrangments.
Brian Lederer, people's counsel for the D.C. Public Service Commission, testified that there should be better cooridination among utility regulators in the region. John F. Keane, people's counsel for the Maryland Public Service Commision, criticized untility companies for building hug nuclear plants that cause too great a disruption if they are shut down. He called for building smaller plants.