You Don't Do It, We Will, EPA Tells States on Cutting Downwind Pollutants
WASHINGTON The Bush administration told 28 states Monday it plans to order specific pollution cuts from their power plants if state officials don't have their own plan by fall of next year for making the air cleaner for people downwind.
A new program the Environmental Protection Agency announced in March requires states in the East, South and Midwest, plus the District of Columbia, to reduce power plant pollutants that form smog and soot and drift downwind.
The states have until September 2006 to submit plans for achieving the pollution reductions. If they miss that deadline, the EPA said Monday it would write the plans for them.
North Carolina and two advocacy groups, Environmental Defense and the Southern Environmental Law Center, sued EPA, saying the state can't meet federal air quality standards if upwind states don't clean up their pollution.
Jeff Holmstead, EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, said the agency's enforcement proposal would go a long way toward cleaning up the nation's air while ensuring that North Carolina can meet federal standards on time.
But EPA's enforcement would only go so far. In North Carolina, for example, the agency says it will only step in to curb soot but not smog. The agency says its analyses show that upwind states don't contribute to smog in North Carolina.
"EPA just strengthened its hand to make sure states implement clean air rules on time and on target, but it failed to take the extra steps to fully address the pollution blowing into North Carolina," said Michael Shore, a senior air policy analyst for Environmental Defense.
Under the March regulations, by 2015, nitrogen oxide pollution in the 28 states will have to be reduced by 1.9 million tons annually, or 61 percent below 2003 levels. Sulfur dioxide pollution must drop by 5.4 million tons, a 57 percent reduction.
EPA says electric utility customers can expect their monthly electric bills to eventually rise by up to $1 to pay the projected $4 billion annual costs to meet the new standards.
But it estimates the financial benefits of preventing breathing ailments by cutting nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are at least 20 times greater. Both chemical compounds contribute to the formation of tiny airborne particles, while nitrogen oxides also lead to smog.
Other states affected by the new regulations are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Source: Associated Press