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: EPA proposes tougher power-plant emission rules because pollution doesn’t stop at the state line

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a federal plan that would further restrict emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that force downwind areas to deal with pollution out of their control.

The “good neighbor” expansion to the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, and the broader Clean Air Act, will target some two dozen states, the agency said with its Friday announcement.

The new proposal suggests that people living in downwind states and communities that have already made significant pollution control commitments should not be subject to the burden of harmful air pollution coming from upwind states that have not adequately required pollution controls. 

States that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, are required to submit plans ensuring that coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites don’t contribute significantly to air pollution in other states.

In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” plan — or where EPA disapproves a state plan — the federal plan would supercede to ensure downwind states are protected.

“Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The 2015 rule set by EPA blocks states from adding to ozone pollution in other localities. The rule applies mostly to states in the South and Midwest that contribute to air pollution along the East Coast. Some states, such as Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin, both contribute to downwind pollution and receive it from other states, the Associated Press reports.

Ground-level ozone, which forms when industrial pollutants chemically react in the presence of sunlight, can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and chronic bronchitis.

A report last year by the American Lung Association found that more than 123 million Americans experience repeated instances of unhealthy ozone levels. Climate change is likely to exacerbate the problem by causing more hot, full-sun days that create high ozone levels.

The EPA estimates public health benefits of $15 billion dollars if the rule is finalized as proposed, including prevention of 1,000 premature deaths and 2,400 hospital visits each year.  

“People in the U.S. deserve electricity and other goods that are produced so as to minimize public health harms,” said Hayden Hashimoto, associate attorney at the Clean Air Task Force. “It has been unacceptable for power plants, particularly those with installed but unused controls, to continue to emit significant pollution that causes downwind areas to violate national ozone standards, and this rule proposes to correct that.”

Business leaders and some Republicans have said the Obama-era rule could harm the economy and cost high-paying power-sector and manufacturing jobs. The Trump administration moved to weaken the rule.

“While the intent of this proposal is right and one that we share, it could have significant effects on American families if not thoughtfully implemented,” said Aric Newhouse, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM previously issued a cost report on the original Clean Air Act.

“At a time when our supply chains are snarled, inflation is skyrocketing and Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, we must be careful with regulations that could further raise prices on all Americans, slow economic growth and threaten jobs,” he said.

The EPA proposal would affect power plants starting next year and industrial sources in 2026. The plan would cover engines used in natural gas

pipelines; cement kilns; boilers and furnaces in iron and steel mills; glass manufacturers; and boilers used in chemical, petroleum
coal and paper plants.

The comment period is now open. EPA expect to issue a final rule by the end of the year.

The Associated Press contributed.

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