The benefits of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule far outweigh the costs of the rule by a 300 to 1 margin
(Posted by David Fox, University of Toledo Law Student and OELC Summer Associate)
Americans living in the eastern and central parts of the country will soon be able to breathe a little bit easier. On July 6, 2011, the U.S. EPA finalized a new air pollution transport rule. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) targets ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter pollution resulting from emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants in the eastern and Midwestern United States. By targeting the industrial sector most responsible for the emissions of air pollutants that contribute to this pollution, this rule is a necessary and long overdue step towards meeting the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Ohio and Pennsylvania are projected to be the states to most benefit from CSAPR. Ohio is expected to see annual mortality decrease from 800 to 3,300, and see monetary benefits of $7 to $27 billion – Source USEPA
CSAPR replaces the EPA’s 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which was found to be defective in a December 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals decision. CSAPR requires 27 states in the eastern half of the U.S. to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution in other states. A supplemental proposal, if finalized, would bring the total number of covered states to 28. CSAPR would cover a total of 3,642 electric generating units (EGUs) at 1,081 coal-, gas-, and oil-fired generating facilities across these28 states.
Many counties within the states covered by CSAPR are still in nonattainment with the 1997 NAAQS for ozone and the 1997 and 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS. In Ohio, twenty-one counties remain in nonattainment with one or more of those NAAQS. This includes some of the most populous counties in the state, such as Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Summit. In some of these counties, attainment with the NAAQS cannot be met unless upwind sources of air pollutants are regulated. This rule is designed to address this problem by reducing emissions of SO2 and NOx in the covered states. These air pollutants contribute to particulate and ozone pollution and are capable of being transported across great distances to downwind sites.
In promulgating this rule, the EPA adopted a state-specific framework to identify the emissions reductions that would need to occur in order to avoid violating the Clean Air Act’s prohibition on emissions that significantly contribute to downwind nonattainment. The EPA developed an emissions budget for each state, which represents the quantity of emissions that would remain after elimination of this significant contribution to downwind nonattainment. Because of the need to promptly respond to the 2008 judicial remand, the EPA is establishing Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) for all of the covered states. These FIPs will allocate emissions allowances to each EGU in a covered state. The EPA’s allocation of these allowances is based on historical heat-input data for each of the covered EGUs.
Emission reductions under CSAPR will take effect quickly. Beginning January 1, 2012, the first phase of compliance begins for SO2 and annual NOx reductions. Ozone-season NOx reductions begin on May 1, 2012. The second phase of SO2 reductions begins January 1, 2014. According to the EPA, by 2014, CSAPR and other final state and EPA actions will reduce SO2 emissions from power plants by 73% and NOx emissions by 54% compared to 2005 levels. The rule also establishes a process for determining the responsibility of upwind states’ to protect air quality downwind. EPA can apply this process to determine if interstate pollution transport contributes to exceedances of the NAAQS and, if so, can impose additional emission reductions on the upwind states.
The benefits of the new rule far outweigh the costs of compliance. The EPA estimates that $800 million will be spent on this rule in 2014, on top of the roughly $1.6 billion spent on capital investments each year as a result of CAIR. However, the rule is expected to improve air quality for more than 240 million Americans, resulting in up to $280 billion in annual benefits (a 300:1 return on investment!), including the value of avoiding up to 34,000 premature deaths each year. The rule is also expected to prevent 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits, 1.8 million missed-work or school days, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms each year. There are also a number of unquantifiable benefits that will result from this rule, including enhanced crop and commercial forest yields, improvements in visibility, reductions in nitrogen and acid deposition, and health and environmental benefits resulting from associated reductions in mercury emissions.
Given these expected benefits, it is evident that CSAPR should be welcomed in the affected states. While energy prices may rise slightly, any such rises are expected to be within the range associated with typical price variability. Moreover, the health and environmental benefits are well worth the minimal costs. This is particularly true in Ohio where the number of counties in nonattainment with the 1997 NAAQS for ozone and/or the 1997 or 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS is expected to drop from twenty-one to zero by 2014.
Benefits for Ohio
1. The rule will reduce Ohio’s contribution to neighboring states’ dirty air. According to USEPA, currently, Ohio sources significantly contribute to:
- fine particle pollution in the following 15 states and the District of Columbia:Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Delaware, New York, Michigan, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee & Illinois
- ground-level ozone pollution in the following 9 states and the District of Columbia:Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York & Michigan
2. The rule will also make Ohio’s air cleaner, and save Ohioan’s lives and quality of life.
- Ohio’s fine particle air quality will improve because of reductions of SO2 and NOx in:Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee & West Virginia
- Ohio’s ground-level ozone air quality will improve because of reductions of NOx in:Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan & Missouri
3. The number of counties in nonattainment with the 1997 NAAQS for ozone and/or the 1997 or 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS is expected to drop from twenty-one to zero by 2014.