Groups Say EPA Plan Will Ensure Reductions in Power Plant Pollution, But More Cuts Needed

On August 1st, Environmental Defense and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said an announcement expected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will ensure timely implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in 28 states and the District of Columbia, but the rule falls short of fully addressing North Carolina 's concerns about upwind power plant pollution. CAIR, finalized last March, established a cap and trade program that will reduce, over the next 10 years, sulfur dioxide pollution by about 73% and oxides of nitrogen pollution by 61% from power plants in eastern and Midwestern states.

Today's expected EPA action was prompted by lawsuits brought by the state of North Carolina, Environmental Defense and SELC that compelled EPA to act on North Carolina 's "good neighbor" petition to address upwind power plant pollution. Under a court-ordered settlement, EPA had until today to announce a plan to ensure pollution reductions in the 13 upwind states that most pollute North Carolina 's air. However, implementation of the federal plan may not be a full remedy for the dirty air being transported into North Carolina .

"EPA just strengthened its hand to make sure states implement clean air rules on time and on target, but it failed to take the extra steps to fully address the pollution blowing into North Carolina," said Michael Shore, Environmental Defense senior air policy analyst. "EPA's action provides a federal backstop to ensure 28 states carry out their obligations to improve air quality, but it doesn't fix North Carolina 's dirty air problem."

"Today's action is significant because it enables EPA to directly enforce CAIR in states that fail to meet the September 2006 deadline for state programs," said Marily Nixon, SELC air quality attorney. "The EPA plan is also important because it does not hamper those states that want to do even more to improve air quality. EPA needs to show that its plan will bring healthy air to North Carolina in a timely way, as required by the Clean Air Act."

"North Carolina has worked long and hard to improve the air quality in its own backyard, but upwind pollution still contributes to unhealthy ozone and particulate pollution levels. The leadership of Attorney General Roy Cooper on the good neighbor petition is not only helping to clean the air in North Carolina, it is enabling other states to clean up their air, too," said Shore.

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