In a move to improve air quality in the eastern part of the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing regulations to cut power plant pollution that drifts across 31 eastern states and the District of Columbia. The new proposal, called the transport rule, along with local and state air pollution controls, will help areas in the eastern U.S. meet existing national air quality health standards, says EPA.
The transport rule will 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 are expected to reduce SO2 emissions by 71 percent over 2005 levels and NOx emissions by 52 percent.
SO2 and NOx form fine particle pollution and ground-level ozone (smog), which are linked to widespread illnesses and premature deaths, says EPA. These pollutants are carried on the wind to other states, contributing to health problems and interfering with states’ ability to meet air quality standards, according to the agency.
The new proposal, using the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, is expected to save more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, according to the EPA. These benefits are expected to outweigh the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014.
The emission reductions will be achieved through readily available pollution control technologies already in place at many power plants across the country, says the EPA.
A recent Ceres report shows that power plant emissions of SO2 and NOx have decreased 54 and 52 percent, respectively, since 1990 thanks to the installation of air pollution control equipment and investment in cleaner sources of generation. However, CO2 emissions continued to rise over the same time period.
The proposal will replace 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 worked to finalize the replacement transport rule.