EPA Issues New Rule to Curb Interstate Smog

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
March 15, 2023US News
EPA Issues New Rule to Curb Interstate Smog
In this file photo a the smokestack of the Wheelabrator Incinerator is seen near Interstate 95 in Baltimore, on March 9, 2019. (Eva Claire Hambach/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new “final rule” on Wednesday aimed at curbing nitrogen oxide pollution—a key component of smog.

The rule specifically targets power plants and other industrial facilities in 23 states in the hopes of protecting air quality for those living downwind. The EPA has termed this type of rule a “Good Neighbor Plan,” as it says the rule is intended to prevent smog-causing pollutants from traveling across state lines.

“The final rule will improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities, saving thousands of lives, keeping people out of the hospital, preventing asthma attacks, and reducing sick days,” the agency said.

The EPA estimated the new rule would help prevent 1,300 premature deaths and more than 2,300 hospital and emergency room visits by 2026. The agency believes the rule will also reduce the prevalence of asthma by 1.3 million cases and prevent 430,000 school absence days and 25,000 lost work days over the next three years.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, hailed the EPA rule in a Wednesday press statement.

“More often than not, downwind states unfairly bear the burdens of air pollution from our upwind neighbors,” Carper said. “That is especially true in Delaware, where more than 90 percent of our air pollution comes from outside our state. The air pollution blowing into Delaware from our upwind neighbors not only negatively impacts the health of our most vulnerable but also creates an economic burden for our state.

“The ‘Good Neighbor’ Plan is about making sure that all states do their part to clean up the air we breathe and I applaud EPA’s work to prioritize the health and well-being of all Americans with this final rule,” Carper added.

Noha Haggag, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, also said the new EPA rules “will help clean up poorly controlled smokestack pollution, save lives, and provide vital health protections for millions of people.”

The new EPA rule would place new regulations specifically on the use of reciprocating internal combustion engines in natural gas pipelines; kilns in cement manufacturing; boilers and reheat furnaces for iron and steel mills, ferroalloy manufacturing, metal ore mining, basic chemical manufacturing, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, and pulp, paper, and paperboard mills; and solid waste combustors and incinerators.

Critics Say Rule Hurts US Industries, Power Grid

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ranking Republican member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement that, “This regulation not only burdens 23 states with overreaching emissions reductions requirements for power plants, it also targets specific industries vital to our economy, including iron, steel, cement, and pulp and paper.”

Moore Capito said the EPA’s description of the regulations as a “Good Neighbor” plan was misleading. She described the rule as part of a broader effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to undermine the fossil fuel industry.

“With this plan, the Biden administration is imposing yet another regulation to accomplish its ultimate goal of shutting down fossil fuel plants and making America less energy independent,” she said.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has also been a proponent of the fossil fuel industry, said the new EPA rule could threaten electrical grid operations. Manchin said affected power plants would face high costs to comply with the rule, which could lead to premature power plant closures or reduced plant runtimes. Manchin said the high costs of complying with the new EPA rules would be passed on to consumers.

“Today’s reckless decision by the EPA totally disregards 23 states’ existing plans to address ozone levels and completely ignores warnings from electricity reliability experts, elected officials, and key manufacturing industries. This Administration is determined to advance a progressive, radical climate agenda,” he said in a statement.

Some opponents of the EPA plan have argued that it should be possible to set standards for pollution reduction at the state level.

Texas has proposed a state-level plan to address federal air quality standards, but the EPA rejected the proposal. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has since brought a legal challenge against the EPA decision.

“The anticipated federal implementation plan would do immeasurable harm to our state sovereignty and to numerous industries across Texas that would be burdened by new, onerous federal regulations,” Paxton wrote in February. “The state-level plan put forth by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meets federal air quality standards, and the EPA’s hyper-politicized decision to reject our plan must be reversed.”

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