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    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to slightly reduce emission standards for utility companies, according to Reuters.

    The EPA had proposed strict new standards for the emission of smog-producing pollutants such as nitrogen oxides that would have forced several power plants to close down because they could not feasibly meet the deadline.

    Since backing down from that rule, the regulatory agency has reversed course and indicated plans to slightly ease restrictions by increasing the number of emission permits available for purchase by between 1 and 2 percent. The EPA auctions these tradeable permits under the Cross State Air Pollution Rule.

    Agency officials suggest the change will only lead to a 1.3 percent increase in emissions, which should not have any health implications for the country.

    "Today's proposal will maintain the significant health benefits of the rule – saving up to 34,000 lives a year," the EPA said in a statement.

    Nevertheless, some legislators opposed the move, with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas insisting that the reductions do not go far enough, according to The Houston Chronicle. Cornyn noted that the current regulations inflate electricity rates and many utilities are still planning layoffs because of high costs.