EPA finalizes rules to limit upwind ozone emissions from power plants in 22 states

power plant pollution ELP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the ozone part of its hotly contested Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to limit nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) from power plants.

The final piece announced this week will require numerous upwind states to reduce power plant NOx emissions which travel to certain downwind states. The EPA is issuing implementation plans for many of those 22 states and provide NOx budgets.

“This final rule will benefit human health and welfare by reducing ground-level ozone pollution,” reads the EPA report released Wednesday. “…Ground-level ozone causes a variety of negative effects on human health, vegetation and ecosystems.”

The human impacts, the EPA warned, could include premature mortality and health effects such as asthma. The federal plans will be only for states which have not delivered approved state implementations.

The decision incorporates 2008 ozone rules with the original 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. It also deals with issues remanded back by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. last year, which affirmed the rule but asked the EPA to reconsider maximum emissions allowances for several states.

The 22 states included in the 2008 ozone standards include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The final, collective ozone-season NOx emissions budgets is 316,464 tons for all 22 states in 2017, according to the EPA report. The state with the lowest emission budget is New Jersey with 2,062 allowable tons of NOx while Texas is tops at more than 52,000 tons.

Industry groups and many of the affected states have cast the rule as an attempt to step on states' rights and shut down aging coal-fired power plants as part of what many Republicans call a "war on coal" by the Obama administration.

“The EPA continues to abuse the Clean Air Act, imposing overreaching regulations that promise little gain with great pain to American consumers and the broader American economy,” Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity,” told the Los Angeles Times after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s basic right to issue the regulations in 2014.

The EPA previously has estimated the Cross-State Pollution Rule would cost power-plant operators about $800 million a year. Those investments would be far outweighed by the hundreds of billions of dollars in health-care savings from cleaner air, the agency said. The rule could prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses each year, the EPA said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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