New EPA rule aims to reduce pollution across state borders
Thursday, July 07, 2011
By David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A new federal rule designed to reduce air pollution that crosses state borders promises to benefit Western Pennsylvania but also force reductions in pollution this region sends to other states.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to protect the health of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and attain clean air standards. The rule requires 27 states, including Pennsylvania, to improve air quality significantly by reducing power-planet emissions that contribute to ozone and particle pollution in other states.
The rule replaces the EPA's 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule.
The final rule projects $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits in 2014, including the value of avoiding 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths caused by air pollution exposure. The $800 million in annual project costs of this rule in 2014, along with the roughly $1.6 billion per year in capital investments already underway as a result of the previous rule, will improve air quality for more than 240 million Americans, the EPA says.
This rule will not disrupt a reliable flow of affordable electricity to American customers and businesses. Health benefits will be achieved at a very low cost, while the effect on prices for specific regions or states may vary but remain within the range of normal electricity price fluctuations. Benefits will greatly outweigh costs, the EPA states.
In addition to the reduction in premature deaths, the EPA said the rule will reduce annual nonfatal heart attacks by 15,000 cases, 19,000 hospital emergency department visits, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 420,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million in days when people miss work or school from pollution-related illnesses.
National emission reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that cross state lines will take effect quickly, starting Jan. 1, 2012, with plans to reduce power plant sulfur emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen emissions from 2005 levels by 54 percent.
"Today's announcement is a victory for Pennsylvania communities that have lived in the deadly shadow of power-plant pollution for far too long," said Adam Garber, field director with PennEnvironment. "This action will reduce the impact of toxic emissions from other states and give us a chance to breathe easier with cleaner air."
Power plants are one of the largest sources of nitrogen oxide emissions in Pennsylvania, releasing 109,000 tons of the pollutant in 2009, according to the recent PennEnvironment report, "Dirty Energy's Assault on our Health: Ozone Pollution." Emissions discharged from power plants across the United States are associated with 23,000 to 60,000 deaths, 3.1 million lost workdays, and 18 million acute respiratory symptoms annually due to particulate pollution alone.
"Pollution from coal-fired power plants continues to have a profound impact on public health and welfare," said Joseph O Minott, Esq., Executive Director of the Clean Air Council. "Believing that everyone has a right to breathe clean air, the Council applauds the 'good neighbor rule.' Enacting it will mean less asthma and better quality of life."
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