Energy & Environment

EPA proposes new rule to cut interstate air pollution

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday proposed a new rule that imposes mandatory reductions of air pollution in numerous U.S. states that blows downwind into their neighbors.

Under the proposed rule, 26 upwind states would be required to reduce ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, emitted by power plants that eventually reaches downwind states.

The proposal includes adding electric generating units in half of U.S. states beginning in 2023. It would also include new emissions standards for industrial pollutants that affect downwind air quality in 23 states beginning in 2026. The agency projects that the changes would prevent some 1,000 premature deaths that year and one million fewer asthma attacks.

Kathleen Riley, an attorney with Earthjustice, told The Hill the organization sees “a lot to like” in the proposal.

A similar rule was proposed under the Trump administration and finalized last year under the Biden administration, but Riley said Friday’s proposal goes further by applying the more stringent ozone standards set in 2015.

“It builds on EPA’s approach and does more, so it reduces emissions from power plants and it requires reductions from eastern and western states,” she said. “It requires facilities and power plants to run already installed controls, and install controls where facilities lack them. It also includes backstop daily limits, which protects environmental justice communities, and prevents pollution hotspots.”

In addition, Riley said, the previous rule was only set to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 17,000 tons, compared to the projection of 94,000 tons in the EPA’s fact sheet on the new rule.

“So these are really big, important public health benefits,” she said.

“Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “This step will help our state partners meet air quality health standards, saving lives and improving public health in smog-affected communities across the United States.”

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