On March 10th, Environmental Defense praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for finalizing the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which requires the greatest reduction in sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen from power plant smokestacks in more than a decade. Nearly three years ago, Environmental Defense approached EPA with a proposal to use administrative powers to curb interstate power plant pollution, using market tools to achieve the pollution reductions. The rule announced today will establish a cap and trade program that will reduce over the next ten years sulfur dioxide pollution by about 73% and oxides of nitrogen pollution by 61% from power plants in East and Midwest states.
"EPA's action is a big breath of fresh air for the millions of Americans across the eastern U.S. suffering from unhealthy particulate and smog pollution," said Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp. "This rule shows how the nation can efficiently reduce the particulate and smog pollution from power plant smokestacks by carrying out the bedrock human health protections of the Clean Air Act. We applaud the EPA for taking the biggest step in a decade to cut particulate and smog pollution from power plant smokestacks."
The Clean Air Interstate Rule will:
- Cut millions of tons of particulate and smog forming pollution from power plants across the eastern half of the U.S., reducing sulfur dioxide pollution by about 73% and oxides of nitrogen pollution by 61% by 2015.
- Prevent an estimated 17,000 deaths, 22,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 700,000 instances of acute bronchitis and exacerbations of asthma, and 2.2 million lost work and school days annually.
- Result in health benefits that outweigh compliance costs by more than 20 to 1.
- Bring an estimated 72 counties into compliance with health-based standards for particulate and ozone.
- Achieve cost-effective pollution cuts by strictly capping emissions and using a market-based allowance trading program to achieve the required pollution reductions.
In 2004, EPA determined some 160 million people in 32 states live in areas out of compliance with the federal health-based standards for particulate pollution and ozone smog. The sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen discharged from power plant smokestacks across the eastern half of the nation contribute to unhealthy particulate pollution and ozone both in-state and in more distant communities. The sharp pollution cuts required by today's action will help states across the East restore healthy air.
EPA's authority to abate interstate industrial pollution has been affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the federal appellate court with exclusive jurisdiction to review today's final rule.
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