EPA making updates to Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Nov. 17 that it was releasing an update to the previously-issued Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe briefed reporters on the revised rule, and how it has been modified to address federal court rulings, in a telephone conference call.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the overall rule in the spring of 2014 in a case with many petitioners, including EME Homer City Generation LP, operator of a major coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania.

EPA will accept comments for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17. The full version of the updated rule is about 358 pages.

The updated rule also responds to the July 2015 remand of certain CSAPR budgets by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The revised regulatory proposal would reduce air quality impacts of the interstate transport of air pollution on downwind areas’ ability to meet the 2008 ozone standard. The proposed updates would reduce summertime emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from power plants that contribute to downwind ozone problems in the eastern half of the United States.

When asked, McCabe said that the revised rule could in some cases prompt coal-fired power plants to run selective catalytic reduction (SCR) equipment more often and, in some cases, to employ low-NOx burners.

The Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision requires states – or, as a backstop, EPA – to address interstate transport of air pollution that affects the ability of downwind states to attain and maintain clean air standards.

Under the “good neighbor” provision, states develop state implementation plans while EPA plays a backstop role by issuing federal implementation plans (FIPs) if a state fails to submit an approvable plan. Today’s proposal provides the FIP that would apply if EPA’s backstop obligation is triggered. States may choose to have their emissions sources controlled by the FIP rather than developing their own plan, McCabe said.

Specifically, the proposed updates identify cuts in power plant NOx emissions in 23 states in the eastern half of the country that contribute significantly to downwind ozone air quality problems and can be achieved using existing, proven and cost-effective control technologies. The proposed cuts in NOx emissions would lead to significant improvements in air quality for the 2017 ozone season. EPA is also proposing to adopt FIPs for each of the 23 states in the event that a state does not submit an approvable SIP.

EPA estimates that the proposed CSAPR Update Rule will reduce NOx emissions from power plants in the East by 85,000 tons in 2017 compared to projections without the rule.

Due to this proposed rule and other changes already underway in the power sector, ozone season NOx emission will be 150,000 tons lower in 2017 than in 2014, a reduction of more than 30%. NOx emissions can react in the atmosphere to create ground-level ozone pollution, or smog. These pollutants can travel great distances, often crossing state lines and making it difficult for other states to meet and maintain the air quality standards for ozone that EPA establishes to protect public health.

The CSAPR, which was finalized in 2011, was designed to help states meet the 1997 ozone standards. Now that the CSAPR approach to define upwind state obligations under the “good neighbor provision” has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, the EPA is applying this approach to the 2008 ozone NAAQS to help states address transported ozone pollution problems under the strengthened standards.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.