By Alex Guillén 10/15/2020 05:11 PM EDT
EPA proposed additional restrictions on nitrogen oxide pollution from power plants in 12 states on Thursday in response to a 2019 court ruling that said part of the original Obama-era version was unlawful.
The rule will reduce NOx emissions, a precursor for ground-level ozone in downwind states in the East, by 17,000 tons ahead of the 2021 summer ozone season, when many states face a critical deadline that will help determine whether they are meeting the 2008 ozone standard and could face additional regulatory requirements.
Background: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 ruled that a 2016 update to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule fell short of the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which requires “upwind” states to reduce ozone-forming emissions that float across state lines and cause air quality problems elsewhere. As much as three-quarters of ozone issues in downwind states are caused by out-of-state pollution, according to EPA.
The court dinged the 2016 rule for not setting a deadline for upwind states to curb their emissions before downwind states are required to meet national standards. The court sent the rule back to EPA for reworking, and the ruling triggered a series of other regulatory and legal conflicts between EPA and several states over cross-state pollution.
EPA’s proposal: The revised CSAPR update rule (Reg. 2060-AU84) imposes additional emissions reductions requirements on power plants in 12 states, which will have to optimize their already-installed pollution controls for the 2021 summer ozone season and install or upgrade low-NOx burners for 2022.
The rule applies to 12 states, mostly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Those states’ pollution was above the threshold for contributing to downwind problems. (Some states, like New York, are considered both upwind and downwind states.)
The proposal includes state emission budgets through 2024, with most states having to reduce or maintain the emissions over time, except for Ohio, whose budget EPA proposed slightly expanding over the period.
Impacts: EPA estimated the revised update would curb summertime NOx pollution by 17,000 tons next year, which would be 26,000 tons, or about 20 percent, below the amount emitted in 2019.
At a 3 percent discount rate, EPA projected compliance costs of $87 million spread over 2021 through 2025; the agency estimated climate benefits from reduced carbon dioxide would amount to $101 million in savings, along with unquantified benefits from public health impacts of reduced exposure to ozone and other pollutants. At a 7 percent discount rate, compliance costs of $83 million outstrip the quantified climate benefits of $15 million, which again did not include non-climate health benefits.
Other details: EPA cleared nine other states previously subject to the CSAPR update from the additional requirements: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.
The rule does not cover NOx pollution from sources other than power plants. EPA said such sources are less likely to be able to provide significant emissions reductions at costs competitive to the highly regulated power sector.
Documents: EPA released a pre-publication copy of the proposal, along with a regulatory impact analysis and fact sheet.
What’s next: EPA must finalize the rule by March 15 because a federal judge in New Jersey in July ordered the agency to act quickly on interstate pollution harming air in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Delaware.
EPA will take public comment for 45 days upon publication in the Federal Register and will hold a virtual public hearing.