Environmentalists vociferously opposed South Coast Air Quality Management District executive officer Barry Wallerstein's suggestion that he would seek amendments to the federal Clean Air Act and state law SB 288 if fossil power projects in his region are needed for system reliability. "It's very premature to talk about running to Congress to change the Clean Air Act," said David Pettit, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney. He pointed out that slack demand for power amid the recession gives the state time to figure out if more fossil-fueled plants are really needed to meet the sprawling region's power needs. Pettit pledged a "fight" on any attempt to amend SB 288. The state enacted the law in 2003 to maintain the strength of the new source review standard in California after President George Bush moved to weaken federal requirements. SB 288 required state and local air pollution control districts to keep their new source review standards just as stringent as they were before the federal relaxation. SB 288 is interpreted to require generators that repower aging plants to both use best available controls and offset remaining emissions. Wallerstein said state legislators should amend the law to fully exempt repowering projects from the offset requirement. Other suggestions to ease the way for fossil-fired power facilities include less rigorous discount standards for old credits when they are used for new projects and changing the way potential emissions are calculated in determining the need for credits. Wallerstein said the SCAQMD is reconstituting its new source review advisory committee to plan a revised legislative strategy. The move could be timely as Republicans in Congress pursue Clean Air Act reopener legislation initially aimed at overturning the federal Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gases, but which could become much broader.