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EPA rule limits emissions polluting downwind areas

By: Associated Press//March 17, 2023//

EPA rule limits emissions polluting downwind areas

By: Associated Press//March 17, 2023//

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(AP File Photo)

WASHINGTON — A new “good neighbor” rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency will restrict smokestack emissions from power plants and other industrial sources that burden downwind areas with smog-causing pollution they can’t control. Nearly two dozen states will have to cut harmful industrial emissions of nitrogen oxide and other pollutants to improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities.

The final rule, issued Wednesday, will save thousands of lives, keep tens of thousands of people out of the hospital, prevent millions of asthma attacks and reduce sick days, according to the agency.

“Every community deserves fresh air to breathe. We know air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,’’ said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

The rule will take effect in May for power plants and “lock in significant pollution reductions to ensure cleaner air and deliver public health protections for those who’ve suffered far too long from air-quality related impacts and illness,” Regan said. The limits on industrial sites take effect in 2026.

States that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, are required to submit plans ensuring that coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites don’t add significantly to air pollution in other states. In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” plan — or where EPA disapproves a state plan — the federal plan would take effect to ensure downwind states are protected.

A 2015 rule set by EPA blocks states from adding to ozone pollution in other localities. The rule applies mostly to states in the South and Midwest that contribute to air pollution along the East Coast. Some states, such as Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin, both contribute to downwind pollution and receive it from other states.

Environmental and public health advocates hailed the final rule as a lifesaving measure that will significantly cut air pollution that crosses state lines, harming people who live hundreds of miles away.

The National Mining Association slammed the rule as part of an ongoing, cumulative effort by the EPA under President Joe Biden to force the closing of coal-fired power plants across the country.

“With each rule that targets well-operating coal plants — the very same plants that are called on to keep the lights on when renewables or natural gas are unavailable and consumer demand soars — our electricity grid becomes increasingly vulnerable to crippling supply shortfalls,’’ said a mining group spokesperson.

Electricity produced from coal has dropped dramatically in the U.S. over the past decade and a half, thanks to competition from cheap and abundant natural gas, declining prices for renewable energy and environmental regulations. Many plants have been shuttered, and a further 23% of the country’s operating coal-powered fleet is scheduled to retire by 2029, according to the Energy Information Administration.


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