The Environmental Protection Agency proposes a plan to reduce smokestack emissions and industrial sources that pollute downwind areas.
Friday’s federal plan is designed to assist more than 22 states in meeting their Clean Air Act “good neighbor” obligations.
Ground-level ozone or smog-producing states must submit plans to ensure that other states’ coal-fired power plants, and other industrial sites, don’t contribute significantly to their air pollution. If a state does not submit a “good neighbour” plan, or if the EPA rejects a state plan, the federal plan will take effect to protect downwind states.
Michael Regan, EPA Administrator, stated that “air pollution doesn’t end at the state line.” The federal plan will help states partner meet air quality standards. This will save lives and improve public health in smog-affected areas across the United States.
The 2015 rule by EPA prohibits states from adding to ozone polluting in other areas. This rule is mostly applicable to the states of the South and Midwest, which contribute to East Coast air pollution. Some states, including Texas, California and Pennsylvania, receive downwind pollution from other states.
Ground-level ozone is formed when industrial pollutants chemically react with sunlight. It can cause asthma and chronic bronchitis. Children playing outside and people with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.
The American Lung Association reported last year that over 123 million Americans live in areas that have seen high levels of unhealthy ozone. The problem is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, which will lead to more sunny days that are conducive to high levels of ozone.
The EPA standard was set at 70 parts per million, which some environmental and health organizations argue is too low. Republicans and business leaders said that the Obama-era rule could hurt the economy and lead to fewer jobs.
Trump’s administration tried to weaken the rule. However, President Joe Biden of the EPA stated that it was restoring pollution control on industrial sites and power plants.
Graham McCahan (a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund), stated that the cross-state pollution rule “protects million of Americans across Eastern U.S.A. from smog which blows across state boundaries and then permeates their community,”
McCahan stated that the proposed update would “encourage more power plants to invest into clean, affordable, zero-emitting electricity, which will help more states upwind be ‘good neighbours’ as required by Clean Air Act.”
Delaware Senator Tom Carper (a Democrat) is the Chair of the Senate Environment Committee. He praised the EPA proposal.
Air pollution is similar to secondhand smoke and has adverse health effects in communities all across the country. This is particularly true for people who live in downwind states such as Delaware, where more than 90 percent of the air pollution comes out of state.
The National Association of Manufacturers was skeptical.
“At a moment when our supply chains and inflation are snarled and Russia’s war against Ukraine is continuing, we need to be careful with regulations which could further raise prices for all Americans, slow down economic growth, and threaten jobs,” said Aric Newhouse. Aric is a senior vice president at the manufacturers group that represents companies from every industry sector and all 50 states.
Newhouse stated that manufacturers will cooperate with EPA to ensure that the rules “achieve shared objectives in a constructive manner”.
The EPA proposal will affect power plants beginning next year and industrial sources starting in 2026. It would include boilers that are used in chemical, petroleum and coal plants, as well as cement kilns, iron and steel mills, glass manufacturers, and engines for natural gas pipelines.
The rule proposal includes a 60-day public consultation period. The EPA anticipates issuing a final rule before the end of this year.