By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a plan that would limit smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that plague downwind areas with smog-causing pollution they can’t control.
The federal plan announced Friday aims to help more than two dozen states meet “good neighbor” obligations under the Clean Air Act.
States that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, are required to submit plans to ensure that coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites do not significantly add to air pollution in other states. In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” plan—or where the EPA disapproves of a state plan—the federal plan would go into effect to ensure downwind states are protected.
“Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. The new federal plan “will help our state partners meet air quality standards, save lives and improve public health in smog-affected communities across the United States.”
A 2015 rule established by the EPA prevents states from adding to ozone pollution in other localities. The rule primarily applies to Southern and Midwestern states that contribute to air pollution along the East Coast. Some states, such as Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin, both contribute pollution downwind and receive it from other states.
Ground-level ozone, which forms when industrial pollutants react chemically in the presence of sunlight, can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. People with weakened immune systems, the elderly and children who play outdoors are particularly vulnerable.
A report from the American Lung Association last year found that more than 123 million Americans lived in counties that experienced repeated instances of unhealthy ozone levels. Climate change is likely to exacerbate the problem by causing warmer sunny days conducive to high ozone levels.
The EPA rule set a standard of 70 parts per billion, a level that some environmental and health groups say is insufficient. Business leaders and Republicans have said the Obama-era rule could hurt the economy and cost jobs.
The Trump administration moved to weaken the rule, but the EPA under President Joe Biden said it was restoring pollution controls at power plants and industrial sites.
The interstate pollution rule “protects millions of Americans in the eastern United States from smog that crosses state lines and then permeates their communities,” said Graham McCahan, senior counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. .
The proposed update “will encourage more power plants to invest in clean and affordable zero-emissions energy, which will help more upstream states to be ‘good neighbours’ as required by the Clean Air Act,” it said. said McCahan.
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, welcomed EPA’s proposal.
“Similar to second-hand smoke, air pollution is having negative health effects in communities across the country. This is especially true for those of us who live in downwind states like Delaware, where more than 90% of our air pollution comes from out of state,” Carper said.
The National Association of Manufacturers was skeptical.
“At a time when our supply chains are congested, inflation is soaring, and Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, we must be careful with regulations that could further increase prices for all Americans. slowing economic growth and threatening jobs,” said Aric Newhouse, a senior vice president with the Manufacturers Group, which represents companies in all industry sectors and all 50 states.
Manufacturers will work with the EPA to ensure the rules can “constructively achieve common goals,” Newhouse said.
The EPA proposal would affect power plants starting next year and industrial sources in 2026. The plan would cover boilers used in chemical, petroleum, coal and paper mills; cement kilns; steelworks; glass manufacturers; and engines used in gas pipelines.
The proposed rule includes a 60-day public comment period. The EPA expects to issue a final rule by the end of the year.
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