EPA Announces Proposed Regulations to Replace Clean Air Interstate Rule
On July 6, 2010, EPA announced proposed regulations that will target power plant pollution that drifts across the borders of 31 eastern states and the District of Columbia. The proposed regulations would replace the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to revise in 2008 (see North Carolina v. EPA, 531 F.3d 896 (D.C.Cir. 2008)). The court allowed CAIR to remain in place temporarily while EPA finalized the replacement rule.
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. The proposed regulations would require further SO2 and NOx emission reductions from electric generating units with a capacity of 25 megawatts or more. EPA estimates that the rule will affect 5,000 fossil-fuel fired units, which account for 84% of nationwide SO2 emissions and 73% of nationwide NOx emissions.
The proposal contains an EPA preferred option and two additional options. Under all three options, EPA would set an emissions budget for each covered state. Under EPA’s preferred option, the agency would allow for intrastate trading of allowances but only limited interstate trading, and each state would still be required to meet its cap by limiting emissions from sources within its borders. Under the second option, EPA would not allow any interstate trading of emissions, although it would allow some intrastate trading among power plants. Under the third alternative, EPA would not allow either interstate or intrastate trading of emissions. Instead, EPA and state regulatory bodies would apply command and control emission limits for each power plant, possibly allowing some averaging among units at each station. According to EPA, sources will achieve emission reductions by operating existing control equipment more frequently, switching to lower sulfur coal, and/or installing new emission control equipment.
The agency claims that by 2014, the rule would reduce SO2 emissions by 71% over 2005 levels, while NOx emissions would drop by 52%. 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. According to the agency, the proposed rule 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. EPA estimates that the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule will be $2.8 billion in 2014.