Summertime nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants and large industrial sources were down by 62 percent compared to year 2000 levels and 75 percent lower than in 1990 thanks to a cap-and-trade program in 20 eastern states and the District of Columbia, according to a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The NOx Budget Trading Program (NBP) is a partnership between federal and state governments to reduce the regional transport of NOx from power plants and industry in the eastern U.S. This market-based program was created to cost-effectively reduce NOx emissions during the ozone season.
The program allows facilities to choose their control options including installing control technologies, replacing existing controls with more advanced technologies, optimizing existing controls, and switching fuels. This flexibility and an active NOx allowance market have led to near perfect compliance since the start of the program in 2003, according to the EPA.
The 2008 NOx Budget Trading Program Annual Report reveals that reduction of NOx has helped reduce smog levels by 10 to 14 percent in the NBP region – largely in the eastern parts of the country. According to the report, there is a strong association between areas with the greatest reductions in NOx emissions and downwind sites that show the greatest improvements in smog.
The program also contributed to improvements in air quality in 97 percent of non-attainment areas in the east, with 85 percent of these areas now below the smog standard.