News Analysis: Environmentalists Applaud 'Good Neighbor' Rule But Want EPA To Do More

The US EPA has recently issued a new rule that the agency says will limit pollution from coal-fired power plants that drifts across state lines. The Allegheny Front's news analyst Ann Murray says some environmental groups say the restriction called the Cross State Air Pollution Rule is a good step but EPA needs to do more.

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OPEN: The US EPA has recently issued a new rule that the agency says will limit pollution from coal fired power plants that drifts across state lines. The Allegheny Front's news analyst Ann Murray says some environmental groups say the restriction called the Cross State Air Pollution Rule is a good step but EPA needs to do more.

JORDAN: The Cross State Air Pollution Rule actually replaces a similar pollution rule. doesn't it?

MURRAY: That's right. There was an EPA rule that was put in place in 2005 and was tossed out by the courts a couple years later because it didn't meet Clean Air Act requirements for the movement of pollution across state lines.

JORDAN: What does this so called Good Neighbor rule do?

MURRAY: EPA has done some calculations and computer modeling and figured how much pollution is coming from coal fired plants in 27 Eastern and Midwestern states including Pennsylvania and put limits on the pollution at the source. Under the EPA's regulations, each state has been allocated a cap on their emissions. States can figure out their own plan to meet those limits or accept the EPA's, Among the changes, the new regulations seek deeper cuts in emissions and bar out-of-state emissions trading.

JORDAN: Which pollutants are we talking about?

MURRAY: Primarily ground level ozone which is the main component of smog and particulate matter which is often called soot. Particulate matter is micro fine material that can get deep in your lungs.

JORDAN: Are smog and soot drifting from just neighboring states?

MURRAY: Not exclusively. Maps on EPA web site indicate movement of soot and smog. Pennsylvania, for example, gets pollution drifting in from 12 states ..mostly nearby states. Soot also moves out of Pennsylvania to neighboring states and as far away as Alabama and Georgia.

JORDAN: How much will ground level ozone and particulate matter be reduced under this new rule?

MURRAY: The rule requires about a 75 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide and a little more than 50 percent nitrogen oxide emissions that cross state lines. These pollutants react in the atmosphere to form fine particles and ground-level ozone.

JORDAN: What are the benefits of this rule change.

MURRAY: Let's start with the lives saved: EPA estimates up to 34,000 every year. The reduction in toxic air polution will also prevent nearly 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, and 1.8 million lost work and school days every year.

The financial benefits are up to $2.8 trillion in benefits the first decade alone.

JORDAN: Of course, every rule change has its cost.

MURRAY: About 3 billion a year for the utilities industry. That's projected by EPA to lead to an increase to rate payers of about one percent.

JORDAN: This sounds like a big reduction in smog and soot.

MURRAY: It is a significant reduction but environmental groups like Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit in Washington,DC believe that EPA has a lot more to do. I talked to Frank OíDonnell with Clean Air Watch and he says that the agency has to move ahead with tougher pollution controls for smog and soot.

JORDAN: EPA has been slow to release a new national standard for ground level ozone. These standards were proposed about a year and a half ago and were supposed be finalized last summer. What happened?

MURRAY: An agency spokesperson says EPA anticipates that the final ozone standard will be released in a couple weeks. This standard replaces the 2008 rule that was put in place by the Bush administration.

JORDAN: Thanks, Ann.

MURRAY: Thank you.