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Cutting Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen oxides (NOx) from Power Plants under the Clean Air Act

EPA issues Final Cross State Air Pollution Rule

Cutting emissions of sulfer dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from coal-fired power plants is critical to reducing soot and smog pollution, which cause numerous health problems including breathing difficulties, aggravation of asthma, and even premature death.

These pollutants are often carried long distances by the wind; consequently some of the biggest health effects are seen in states thousands of miles away.

EPA Releases Final Cross State Air Pollution Rule

On July 6, 2011, under the auspices of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule to curtail SO2 and NOx emissions from power plants in the Eastern United States.  The rule, known as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), will go into effect on January 1, 2012 and is designed specifically to help control pollution that travels across state boundaries.

This rule replaces the standard established by the George W. Bush Administration, called the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which was struck down by courts as insufficiently protective of public health. It builds on the experience of the Acid Rain program in reducing SO2 and NOx emissions.

Power plants subject to this rule will have a number of ways to decrease air pollution, such as using low-sulfur coal, installing environmental technologies such as scrubbers, and transitioning away from coal to cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar.

Reducing SO2 and NOx Emissions Will Save Lives, Improve Health, Save Money

The benefits of this rule far outweigh its costs. By 2014, as a result of this and other state and federal regulations, SO2 emissions nationwide will be reduced by 73 percent and NOx emissions by 54 percent from 2005 levels.

The rule will also help to reduce other dangerous pollution such as ozone and soot, both of which are very harmful to the lungs. EPA analysis shows that, by 2014, this rule will prevent an estimated 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million days of lost work or school.

According to EPA, the rule will provide $120 to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits in 2014, while the annual projected costs of this rule in 2014 are only $800 million, with an additional roughly $1.6 billion per year in capital investments already under way as a result of CAIR.

UCS Will Fight Against Attacks on the Clean Air Act

Despite the health benefits and affordability of the EPA’s Clean Air Act standards, some energy companies and their allies in Congress are working to block or weaken them. Additionally, some states, such as Texas and Kansas, have challenged the new standards in court.   

Many of the same interests are also seeking to stop the EPA from using its Clean Air Act authority to protect our health from global warming emissions from power plants and refineries.  

UCS will continue to work to stop congressional attacks on the Clean Air Act so that badly-needed limits on SO2, NOx, mercury and carbon emissions can go forward. 

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For more than 20 years, UCS has worked with leading experts to educate U.S. decision makers and the public about global warming and implement practical solutions at an international, national, regional, and state level. You can help support this work:

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