Tuesday, July 06, 2010

EPA Proposes New Air Transport Rule For Eastern States

Jul 6: U.S. EPA announced it is proposing regulations to cut air pollution that impairs air quality and harms the health of people living downwind of pollution sources. The regulation will target power plant pollution that drifts across the borders of 31 eastern states and the District of Columbia. Along with local and state air pollution controls, the new proposal, called the transport rule, is designed to help areas in the eastern United States meet existing national air quality health standards.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This rule is designed to cut pollution that spreads hundreds of miles and has enormous negative impacts on millions of Americans. We're working to limit pollution at its source, rather than waiting for it to move across the country. The reductions we're proposing will save billions in health costs, help increase American educational and economic productivity, and -- most importantly -- save lives." EPA said the transport rule would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to meet state-by-state emission reductions. By 2014, the rule and other state and EPA actions would reduce SO2 emissions by 71 percent over 2005 levels. NOx emissions would drop by 52 percent.

    EPA said it is using the "good neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act to reduce interstate transport, which is the upwind state emissions that contribute to air quality problems in downwind states. The proposed rule sets in place a new approach that can and will be applied again as further pollution reductions are needed to help areas meet air quality health standards. SO2 and NOx react in the atmosphere to form fine particle pollution and ground-level ozone (smog), which are linked to widespread illnesses and premature deaths. The pollutants are carried on the wind to other states, contributing to health problems for their residents and interfering with states' ability to meet air quality standards.

    EPA said the action would yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms. These benefits would far outweigh the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014. EPA said it expects that the emission reductions will be accomplished by proven and readily available pollution control technologies already in place at many power plants across the country.

    The transport rule also would help improve visibility in state and national parks and would increase protection for ecosystems that are sensitive to pollution, including streams in the Appalachians, lakes in the Adirondacks, estuaries and coastal waters, and red maple forests. The proposal would replace and improve upon the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered EPA to revise in 2008. The court allowed CAIR to remain in place temporarily while EPA works to finalize the replacement rule that it is now proposing. EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register soon. The Agency also will hold public hearings. Dates and locations for the hearings will be announced shortly.
    Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works, Clean Air Subcommittee released a statement saying, "As those of us who live in Delaware and other so-called "tail pipe" states on the East Coast know all too well, air pollution knows no boundaries. Even as Delaware has worked to clean our air, air pollution from neighboring states has adversely affected the health of Delawareans for too long just by virtue of our location. Given the difficulty of the assignment, the Environmental Protection Agency has done as great job considering the requirements demanded of them by recent court decisions in crafting this new rule. There's no doubt the new rule will help clean the air. Unfortunately, for the EPA to meet previous court rulings, the regulation is complicated [1,361 pages] and open to further lawsuits, which would likely cause even more delays in meeting our public health targets."     

    Carper continued, "For me, and I hope for my colleagues, today's transport rule underscores the need for Congress to step up to the plate and pass legislation that adequately addresses this complex and critical issue. Legislation that I have sponsored with my Republican colleague Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010 [S.2995, See WIMS 2/5/10], would effectively accomplish many of the goals of this new rule -- cutting mercury emissions by 90 percent from coal-fired power plants and tightening national limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). My bill, which has broad bipartisan support with 15 cosponsors, would set even greater reductions that what EPA has put forth today, while at the same time giving flexibility to businesses and states to meet those targets. Just as important, my legislation provides certainty for the business community and the public. To me, the path forward is clear -- Congress must pass legislation to address the serious threat posed by air pollution this year."
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a release from Sen. Carper (click here). Access the Proposed Rule, Fact Sheet, Overview Presentation, Table: Impacts of the Proposed Transport Rule on Counties, and the Regulatory Impact Analysis (click here). Access more information on Air Transport (click here).