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EPA to Tighten ‘Good Neighbor’ Traveling Air Pollution Rules (2)

March 11, 2022, 3:55 PMUpdated: March 11, 2022, 10:22 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to tighten controls on wandering ozone pollution from new states and industries in a “good neighbor” proposal released Friday.

Natural gas, cement, glass and paper industries are among the new sectors, in addition to power plants, that will be subject to more stringent requirements, according to the proposal. Four Western states—California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming—will be included alongside East Coast states traditionally targeted for interstate pollution limits. Twenty-five states are included in total.

“Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “This step will help our state partners meet air quality health standards, saving lives and improving public health in smog-affected communities across the United States.”

The Clean Air Act’s interstate pollution provision limits cross-state nitrogen oxide emissions—a key ingredient in harmful ozone pollution—from upwind states by providing incentives for pollution controls.

‘Proven’ Methods

Traveling pollution rules aim to stem ozone in downwind states that have trouble meeting air quality standards due to emissions that waft over from states with heavy industrial facilities.

The “good neighbor” proposal had a Feb. 28 signing deadline, laid out in an update to 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, for ozone. States craft pollution mitigation plans under NAAQS that are then subject to approval by the EPA.

Under the draft rule, the agency will launch requirements for power plants in 25 states starting in 2023. The new industries will be added to the requirements starting in 2026.

The plans build, in part, on “proven approaches” utilized in other regulations like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Daily emission limits, optimizing emission controls, and limits on how many pollution allowances can be “banked” are all part of the new plan.

Minimum Effort, Maximum Result

Environmentalists and air quality experts lauded the proposal, which will cost around $1 billion for industry to implement but yield at least $15 billion in benefits annually, according to the EPA.

“This science-based proposal prioritizes Americans’ health over polluters and is consistent with the ‘Golden Rule’ — to treat our neighbors the way we would like to be treated — a value that I believe we should all aspire to uphold in life,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a statement.

The proposal requires “minimal effort” from most facilities, but prevents over 1,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks per year, League of Conservation Voters Government Affairs Director Matthew Davis said in a statement.

Paul Miller, executive director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, said the draft moves in the “right direction” toward “a complete remedy” for downwind states’ traveling ozone pollution woes.

“It has provisions that would incentivize coal power plants with the most up-to-date pollution controls to actually run them at an effective level, something missing in past interstate pollution rules,” he told Bloomberg Law in an email.

The Portland Cement Association is evaluating the rule for its impacts, said Sean O’Neill, senior vice president of government affairs for the cement industry group.

(Adds Portland Cement Association reaction in final paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Hijazi in Washington at jhijazi@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com