Cross State Air Pollution Rule aims to cut smog, soot from coal plants
U.S. environmental regulators finalized a rule on Thursday to slash air pollution from coal-fired power plants in 27 states east of the Rocky Mountains that result in unhealthy levels of smog and soot.
The Environmental Protection Agency measure, known as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, will add costs for some power generators, but should cut health care bills for Americans.
Companies that could see higher costs include large coal burners Southern Co, Duke Energy and American Electric Power.
"No community should have to bear the burden of another community's polluters, or be powerless to prevent air pollution that leads to asthma, heart attacks and other harmful illnesses," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
The EPA rule will reduce power plant sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent by 2014, from 2005 levels, when combined with state environmental laws. It will cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 54 percent by 2014. Those cuts are slightly deeper than ones proposed by the EPA last year.
Power plants have to start cutting their sulfur dioxide emissions in January 2012 and their nitrogen oxide emissions that May.
In addition, the state of Texas will now be required to cut sulfur dioxide emissions in an annual program, a measure that was not included in last year's proposal.
The agency said the rule would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, and save $280 billion per year in health costs. The pollution is linked to heart attacks and lung problems including asthma.
Those benefits outweigh the $800 million projected to be spent by power plants and others annually on the rule in 2014 and the roughly $1.6 billion per year in capital investments already underway from previous rules, the EPA said.
The rule will also level the playing field for power plant operators that are already controlling these emissions by requiring more plants to take similar actions, it said.
Not everyone was happy about the regulation.