— The Environmental Protection Agency is clamping down on power plant
pollution in 27 states that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.
Administrator Lisa Jackson announced on Thursday a plan to reduce smokestack
pollution causing smog and soot in downwind states — where it combines with
local air contaminants, making it impossible for those states to meet air
quality standards on their own.
The rule differs
from one proposed by the Obama administration in July. Power plants in the
District of Columbia and five states — Delaware, Connecticut, Florida,
Louisiana and Massachusetts — will no longer have to control year-round
emissions of two pollutants — sulfur dioxide, responsible for acid rain and
soot, and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to both smog and soot.
contrast, will have to reduce more pollution than in the initial proposal,
which required the state's power plants only to address summertime
In a conference
call with reporters, the EPA chief said the regulation would make sure no
community has to bear the burden of polluters in another state. She said
just because pollution drifts far from a power plant "doesn't mean pollution
is no longer that plant's responsibility."
crosses state lines places a greater burden on (downwind) states and makes
them responsible for cleaning up someone else's mess," Jackson said
In addition, the
EPA proposed requiring power plants in Oklahoma and five other states to
control nitrogen oxide emissions during the summer smog season. If that
proposal becomes final, power plants in 28 states will be covered by the
Jackson said the
changes were based on the latest air quality data.
it another step by the Obama administration to crack down on coal-fired
power plants. The regulation is one of several expected from the EPA that
would target pollution from the nation's 594 coal-fired power plants, which
provide nearly half of the country's electricity — but also a significant
share of its pollution.
While the EPA
says the suite of regulations will not cause the power to go out, almost
everyone agrees that it will help close down some of the oldest, and
dirtiest, coal-fired facilities. At the remaining plants, operators would
have to use existing pollution controls more frequently, use lower-sulfur
coal, or install additional equipment.
"The EPA is
ignoring the cumulative economic damage new regulations will cause," said
Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal
Electricity, a pro-coal industry association. Along with other pending
regulations, Miller said they "are among the most expensive ever imposed by
replaces a 2005 Bush administration proposal that was rejected by a federal
The rule, which
will start going into effect next year, will cost power plant operators $800
million annually in 2014, according to EPA estimates. That's in addition to
the $1.6 billion spent per year to comply with the Bush rule that was still
in effect until the government drafted a new one. The agency said the
investments would be far outweighed by the hundreds of billions of dollars
in health care savings from cleaner air.
In the first two
years, the EPA estimates that the regulation and some other steps will slash
sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from 2005 levels, and nitrogen oxides
will be cut by more than half.
and nitrogen oxide pollution from power plant smokestacks can be carried
long distances by the wind and weather. As they drift, the pollutants react
with other substances in the atmosphere to form smog and soot, which have
been linked to various illnesses, including asthma, and have prevented many
cities from complying with health-based standards set by law.
"This rule makes
power plants behave like good neighbors by cutting their pollution that
spreads across the border," said Albert A. Rizzo, a pulmonary and critical
care physician with the American Lung Association. "For too long, soot and
smog pollution have traveled far from their sources, impacting public
Sen. Tom Carper,
D-Del., said the regulation will help protect Delaware and other "tail-pipe"
states on the receiving end of another state's pollution. He said the fact
that Delaware power plants will no longer be covered by the rule showed his
state had done its part.
some of our neighbors haven't made the same progress in curbing air
pollution," Carper said. "We have no control over this pollution, yet it
endangers our health."
pollution also produces haze in parks, and damages forests and lakes with
The 27 states
subject to the rule are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and
Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/crossstaterule