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Clean Air Transport Rule

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The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), also known as the Clean Air Transport Rule, is a proposed rule of the EPA requiring significant reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions that cross state lines. On July 6, 2011, the US EPA finalized the rule, replacing a 2005 rule known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). The rule was challenged in federal court in October, 2011 by a group of utilities and state attorneys general, and on December 30, 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling to stay the rule pending judicial review.

The pollutants being singled out in the CSAPR — sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides — react in the atmosphere to form fine particulates and ground-level ozone (smog). They are easily carried by the wind and affect states and cities far downwind from the plants where they are produced. The Transport Rule would apply to power plants in 31 states east of the Rockies, with the exception of the Dakotas, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.[1][2]

July 2011: EPA issues proposed rule

On July 6, 2011, the EPA finalized the rule, to have states comply with the 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The rule requires 27 states to significantly improve their air quality. The EPA is adopting federal implementation plans, or FIPs, for each of the states covered, which can be replaced with State Implementation Plans, or SIPs, starting as early as 2013. The CSAPR requires 23 states to reduce annual SO2 and NOX emissions to help downwind areas attain the 24-Hour and/or Annual PM2.5 NAAQS.

In a separate but related regulatory action, EPA also issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR) to require six states - Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin - to make summertime NOX reductions under the CSAPR ozone-season control program. The EPA will finalize this proposal by late fall 2011.

The final CSAPR divides the states required to reduce SO2 into two groups. Both groups must reduce their SO2 emissions beginning in 2012. Group 1 states must make additional reductions in SO2 emissions by 2014 in order to eliminate their "significant contribution" to air quality problems in downwind areas. Significant additional SO2 emission reductions in Group 1 states will be required in 2014.

Emission reductions would start January 1, 2012 for SO2 and annual NOX reductions, and May 1, 2012 for ozone season NOX reductions.[3] The rule was challenged in federal court in October, 2011 by a group of utilities and state attorneys general, and on December 30, 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling to stay the rule pending judicial review.

Costs vs. Benefits

According to the EPA, by 2014 the required emissions reductions will annually avoid:

  • 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths
  • 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 1.8 million lost work days or school absences
  • 400,000 aggravated asthma attacks

Compared to 2005, EPA estimates that by 2014 this rule and other federal rules will lower power plant annual emissions in the CSAPR region by:

  • 6.4 million tons per year of SO2 - a 73 percent reduction
  • 1.4 million tons per year of NOX - a 54 percent reduction

The final rule, according to EPA estimates, yields $120 to $280 billion in annual health and welfare benefits in 2014, which outweighs the estimated annual costs of CSAPR of $800 million in 2014, along with the roughly $1.6 billion per year in capital investments already under way as a result of CAIR.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

The 2011 rule will replace the EPA's 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule, which was vacated in July 2008 by the D.C. Circuit Court. Acting under federal court order, the Obama administration proposed the new air-quality rules on July 6, 2010, for coal-burning power plants. The proposed rule would require NOx and SO2 emission reductions in 2012 and additional SO2 emission reductions in 2014.[4] The CSAPR takes effect January 1, 2012; CAIR will be implemented through the 2011 compliance periods, and then replaced by the CSAPR.

According to the EPA, by 2014 power plants in states common to both the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and CAIR will achieve annual SO2 emissions around 1.8 million tons lower and annual NOX emissions around 76,000 tons lower than what would have been achieved at that time under CAIR.[5]

Reports

2010 report finds EPA underestimating benefits of rule

A 2010 report suggests the EPA is underestimating the net savings from SO2 and NOx regulations because it focuses almost exclusively on direct health costs, which does not capture the full impact of the pollution on the economy, such as "higher labor and health insurance costs, lost jobs, lost state and local tax revenue, and higher gasoline prices." The report, "Expensive Neighbors: The Hidden Cost of Harmful Pollution to Downwind Employers and Businesses" by electricity industry expert Dr. Charles J. Cicchetti finds that power plants without SO2 and NOx scrubbers are imposing an estimated $6 billion in annual costs on downwind businesses.[6]

Specifically, the report finds that, due to unscrubbed coal plants, between 2005 and 2012:[6]

  • Businesses will lose $47 billion in costs;
  • Over 360,000 jobs will be lost;
  • State and local governments will lose almost $9.3 billion in tax revenue;
  • Families and businesses in polluted areas will pay $26.0 billion more for reformulated gasoline as a result of ongoing pollution.

When these costs are added to health costs to individuals, the benefits of the EPA's upcoming Clean Air Transport Rule, which would put tighter limits on ozone pollution, "exceed compliance costs by about 100 times." Cicchetti concludes: "There are people who will argue that the benefits of a greener environment are fine when the country is at full employment. But when the country is suffering unemployment, when states are having trouble balancing budgets and businesses are having trouble keeping employees, we can't afford the investments and efforts to make the air cleaner. By drilling down to the employment and businesses effects, showing that those benefits outweigh the additional costs, I've tried to show that we should do it sooner rather than later, that it will reduce the costs of employment in affected areas and stimulate jobs. Now is a better time to get on with the task of making the air better and healthier."[6]

2011 report: Updated Clean Air Act regulations creates jobs

A 2011 report by Ceres, "New Jobs - Cleaner Air" found that updated EPA rules on air pollution could create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years. Engineering, construction and pipefitting are some of the professions that could see a rise in jobs through investments to comply with the Clean Air Act. Ceres is a coalition of environmentalists and institutional investors, and the report was produced by researchers at University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute. It quoted the Office of Management and Budget, which said in 2003 that every dollar spent on compliance with the act since 1970 has led to $4 to $8 in economic benefits. In addition, the clean air rules can create jobs not counted in the report, such as in exports of domestically produced technologies like scrubbers that capture pollutants before they reach smokestacks. The report looked at EPA rules designed to reduce emissions in the eastern half of the country of smog-causing chemicals, known as the Transport Rule, and to cut output of mercury and other hazardous pollutants from boilers, known as the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule.[7]

Legal challenges

September - October, 2011: States challenge CSAPR

The attorney general of Kansas filed the first challenge against the EPA's new regulations on Sept. 20, 2011.[8] Other states, including Nebraska, Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia filed lawsuits against the EPA in early October.[9] Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy also filed a lawsuit over the regulations on Oct. 7. [10]

EPA moves to ease rule requirements

On Oct. 6, 2011, the EPA proposed easing new pollution restrictions to allow 10 states, especially Texas, to emit more smog-causing pollution than had initially been permitted. EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz said the agency's decision to ease the standards had to do with new data and was not political.

The rule gives more leeway to the dirtiest facilities. The change will allow the 10 states to emit 76,000 tons more pollution - 70,000 tons from Texas alone. This is about 2 percent of the total pollution the EPA will regulate under the new rule.[11]

December 2011: Court issues stay of regulations

On December 30, 2011, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a stay of the Transport Rule regulations, ceding to challenges filed by several major coal-burning utilities, the State of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They argued that the deadline was "draconian," among other objections. The court said it hoped to hold a hearing on the case in April 2012. [12]

August 2012: Appeals court strikes down rule

On August 21, 2012, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled 2-1 against the rule. The court determined that the rule forced states to be accountable for pollution that was not theirs, potentially making some states responsible for reducing pollution in other states that may be primarily caused by third party states. Second, the court found that the way in which the rule mandates obligations on polluting states is in conflict with existing mandates under the Clean Air Act, as the EPA did not allow states the initial opportunity to implement the required reductions within their borders. The two judges in the majority were appointed by George W. Bush; the dissenter by Bill Clinton. The ruling leaves the older Clean Air Interstate Rule in place to reduce SO2 and NOx emissions until a new rule can be promulgated.[13]

In March 2013 environmental groups petitioned the Supreme Court to review the ruling, saying the appeals court badly misread the “good neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act, which enable regulators to require curbs in emissions that cause pollution in downwind states.[14]

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

References

  1. John Broder, "New Rules Issued on Coal Air Pollution" New York Times, July 6, 2010.
  2. "Proposed Transport Rule Would Reduce Interstate Transport of Ozone and Fine Particle Pollution," EPA Fact Sheet, accessed July 8, 2010
  3. "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)" EPA, July 7, 2011.
  4. "Air Transport" EPA, accessed Feb. 2011.
  5. "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)" EPA, July 7, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 David Roberts, "New report shows dirty coal doing even more damage than you thought " Grist, Dec. 9, 2010.
  7. "New Clean Air Rules Could Create 1.5 Million Jobs: Report" HuffPo, Feb. 9, 2011.
  8. Gabriel Nelson "Kan. Sues EPA Over Orders to Cut Interstate Emissions From Power Plants" New York Times, Sept. 20, 2011.
  9. "Ga. AG sues EPA over new air pollution rule" Associated Press, Oct. 6, 2011.
  10. Leslie Brooks Suzukamo,"Xcel suing EPA over air pollution regulations" Minneapolis Pioneer Press, Oct. 7, 2011.
  11. "EPA rolls back air rule; Texas gets most leeway" Las Vegas Sun, Oct. 6, 2011.
  12. Matthew Wald, "A Coal-Fired Plant That Is Eager for U.S. Rules" NY Times, January 5, 2012.
  13. "EPA "Transport Rule" Struck Down by Court," American Spectator, August 21, 2012.
  14. Ben Geman, "Green groups want Supreme Court to revive power plant rule," The Hill, March 29, 2013.