Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states seek more emissions controls

Eight Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states on Dec. 9 petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require upwind states to reduce ozone pollution generated within their borders from various sources, including power plants.

The multi-state action is aimed at requiring nine upwind states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – to reduce air pollution emissions that are carried by prevailing winds and contribute to the formation of ozone to the north and east.

“Delaware’s air quality remains overwhelmed by air pollution from upwind states – even though we have reduced emissions within Delaware of ozone-forming pollution by more than 70 percent since 1990,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, whose state is one of the petitioning parties. “While Delaware’s in-state sources are well-controlled with state-of-the-art technology, this is simply not true of our upwind neighbors. As a result, Delaware pays more for healthcare resulting from respiratory illnesses and our industries are forced to do more than those in the states causing the pollution, and that’s simply unfair. We need a level playing field among states to ensure that all states can enjoy healthy air.”

The petition cites decades of alleged inaction by the upwind states during which time the eight Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states have spent tens of billions of dollars to reduce their own air emissions. The petition asks EPA to require the nine upwind states to join them in what is known as the Ozone Transport Region (OTR). Under the Clean Air Act, states added to the OTR would have to take actions consistent with the air pollution efforts of the downwind states through use of readily available control technologies and reliance on cleaner fuels to generate power.

States filing the petition – all of which are current members of the OTR – are Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

“Delaware has made great strides in cleaning up its own air pollution; but unfortunately, Delaware – along with other Northeast states – is located at the end of what I call ‘America’s tailpipe,’” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “Other states’ dirty emissions from cars and power plants drift east, causing pollution that Delaware cannot stop or regulate. At the end of the day, downwind states can only do so much without the cooperation and investment of upwind states. EPA has tried to implement new policies that would make all states be good clean air neighbors – but right now these policies are delayed in our court system. As we wait for a final decision, downwind states continue to suffer. Bringing in additional upwind states into the Ozone Transport Region is something the EPA Administrator can do now while we wait for a broader approach.”

“Delaware has made significant progress in transitioning to a cleaner energy economy. With the state, residents, and private businesses working together, Delaware’s dirtiest coal-fired burners have either been shut down or improved with pollution controls that significantly reduce the amount of toxins they produce. The results have been dramatic – better air quality and a reduced risk of Delawareans developing chronic health problems,” said Rep. John Carney, D-Del. “But we can’t control the pollutants that pass over Delaware from the states to our west. These states are upwind of us and rely on the power they obtain from one of the dirtiest energy sources: coal. It’s time for these states to step up and make the investments in cleaner energy that have been so productive here in Delaware. The health of current and future generations of Americans in this region depends on it. I’m hopeful they will make progress on a healthier, cleaner environment in the near future.”

Under Section 176A of the Clean Air Act, states can petition the EPA to add any state to an air quality region such as the OTR if there is reason to believe it is the source of pollution causing violations of air quality standards elsewhere. The EPA Administrator is required to approve or disapprove of such a petition within 18 months.

In submitting the petition to EPA, the eight downwind states told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: “We believe expansion of the transport region and implementation of the required controls in upwind states are necessary for all of the OTR to achieve attainment in a timely manner. We also believe that the consultation process that is such an important part of the OTC’s activities can benefit all states in an expanded OTR in the assessment of the ozone transport problem and result in the development of effective solutions.”

Industries and electric power plants in downwind states have invested heavily in pollution control technologies and additional emissions reductions would come from smaller sources at greater cost, said those states. The cost of removing an additional ton of pollution in the downwind states is estimated at between $10,000 to $40,000 – compared to as little as $200-$500/ton in upwind states, where even some basic control technologies have not been installed, they said.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.