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EPA Proposal Cuts Pollution from Power Plants in 31 States and D.C.

Rule would reduce smog- and soot-forming emissions contributing to unhealthy air

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing regulations to cut air pollution that impairs air quality and harms the health of people living downwind. The regulation will target power plant pollution that drifts across the borders of 31 eastern states and the District of Columbia. Air pollution is linked to thousands of asthma cases and heart attacks, and almost 2 million lost school or work days. Along with local and state air pollution controls, the new proposal, called the transport rule, is designed to help areas in the eastern United States meet existing national air quality health standards.

"This rule is designed to cut pollution that spreads hundreds of miles and has enormous negative impacts on millions of Americans," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're working to limit pollution at its source, rather than waiting for it to move across the country.  The reductions we're proposing will save billions in health costs, help increase American educational and economic productivity, and -- most importantly -- save lives."

The transport rule would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to meet state-by-state emission reductions. By 2014, the rule and other state and EPA actions would reduce SO2 emissions by 71 percent over 2005 levels. NOx emissions would drop by 52 percent.

EPA is using the "good neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act to reduce interstate transport, which is the upwind state emissions that contribute to air quality problems in downwind states.  The proposed rule sets in place a new approach that can and will be applied again as further pollution reductions are needed to help areas meet air quality health standards.

SO2 and NOx react in the atmosphere to form fine particle pollution and ground-level ozone (smog), which are linked to widespread illnesses and premature deaths. These pollutants are carried on the wind to other states, contributing to health problems for their residents and interfering with states' ability to meet air quality standards.

Today's action would yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms. These benefits would far outweigh the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014.

EPA expects that the emission reductions will be accomplished by proven and readily available pollution control technologies already in place at many power plants across the country.

The transport rule also would help improve visibility in state and national parks and would increase protection for ecosystems that are sensitive to pollution, including streams in the Appalachians, lakes in the Adirondacks, estuaries and coastal waters, and red maple forests.

The proposal would replace and improve upon the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered EPA to revise in 2008. The court allowed CAIR to remain in place temporarily while EPA works to finalize the replacement rule proposed today.

EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. The agency also will hold public hearings.  Dates and locations for the hearings will be announced shortly.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/airtransport

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