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Senator seeks to relax EPA rules post-Katrina

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican committee chairman wants to temporarily relax federal environmental regulations because of Hurricane Katrina.

The Environmental Protection Agency's chief briefed Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and his colleagues. Stephen Johnson told senators he was not aware of anything he needed at this point, committee spokesman Bill Holbrook said Thursday.

But the EPA administration also said "there are still a number of unknowns and couldn't project what he would need considering those unknowns," Holbrook said.

The EPA has suspended some of its clean-air requirements in the aftermath of Katrina to ease the flow of gasoline supplies.

A draft of a bill by Inhofe, R-Okla., would give the EPA head the power for 120 days to waive or modify agency laws and rules if needed to respond to the hurricane. Governors would have to be consulted, but the administrator would have final say.

Environmentalists also denounced the emerging proposal.