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Protecting Historic Progress on Clean Air

Article / Review by on November 7, 2011 – 6:00 pmNo Comments

Protecting Historic Progress on Clean Air

President Obama believes that American families should never be asked to choose between the health of their children and the health of the economy. That is a false choice. Four decades of success under the Clean Air Act have shown clearly that strong environmental protections and a strong economy can go hand in hand.

To build on the tremendous success of the Clean Air Act, the Obama Administration has taken the most significant steps in a generation to reduce harmful pollution and promote public health. The new standards that we have issued or proposed – to curb interstate pollution, reduce mercury exposure, and make our cars more fuel efficient, just to name a few – will result in significant economic and health benefits each year.

Just over forty years ago, the Senate did something that would be almost unthinkable today: It passed major legislation by a unanimous vote. That legislation was the Clean Air Act of 1970, signed by President Richard Nixon. Two decades later, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were passed, again with large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, and signed by President George H. W. Bush.

But today, Republicans in Congress are trying to use our current economic climate as an excuse to roll back clean air protections that Americans have counted on for decades. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is currently leading an effort to block the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that would save tens of thousands of lives each year. In doing so, Senator Paul is using the Congressional Review Act to repeal this important rule and prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting American families from cross-state pollution in the future.

Let’s be clear – this brazen effort doesn’t just undermine the public health, it also undermines the judgment of the courts. In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit found critical flaws in the Bush Administration’s efforts on interstate air pollution and directed the EPA to issue a replacement rule as quickly as possible. After seeking and incorporating extensive input from the public, the states, environmental and public health groups, as well as industry, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution rule in July of this year.

What does the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Do? 

This rule is designed protect the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce harmful air pollution through the deployment of readily available technologies that are already in use at many facilities across the country. By reducing dangerous pollution emitted by power plants, the rule protects residents in dozens of states who are unknowingly subjected to toxic emissions from plants often hundreds of miles away.

What benefits will the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule provide for American Families? 

The emission reductions from this final rule will have significant and immediate public health benefits, each year preventing:

  • 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths,
  • 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis,
  • 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks,
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits,
  • 1.8 million days when people miss work or school,
  • 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and
  • 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms.

In addition, the benefits of this rule are expected to far outweigh its costs, producing over $100 billion in net benefits each year.

We will continue to take smart sensible steps that ensure we protect the health of our families, while also opposing efforts to undermine the Clean Air Act.

By Heather Zichal Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
health benefits
Annual Public Health and Environmental Benefits

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will help avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, achieving billions of dollars in public health benefits. By 2014, the required emissions reductions will annually avoid:

  • 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths
  • 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 1.8 million lost work days or school absences
  • 400,000 aggravated asthma attacks
Pollution reductions will also lead to improvements in visibility in national and state parks, and increased protection for sensitive ecosystems including Adirondack lakes and Appalachian streams, coastal waters and estuaries, and forests

View this data as an Excel Spreadsheet (23 Kb)

Air Quality Improvements

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will improve air quality in thousands of counties throughout the eastern, central, and southern U.S. – counties that are home to over 75% of the U.S. population. State, local and federal actions have already improved air quality so that many counties meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and fine particle pollution. Many areas have already been brought into attainment with these standards. This rule will help bring several more areas into attainment and help many more areas continue to meet the level of the standards.

Most of the counties with monitors in the region covered by the CSAPR are projected to meet the 1997 and 2006 ozone and fine particle standards in 2014. View a PDF: Impacts of the CSAPR on Counties with Monitors Projected to have Ozone and/or Fine Particle Air Quality Problems

Basic Information
On July 6, 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that protects the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and attain the 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). This rule, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), requires 27 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particlepollution in other states. To speed implementation, EPA is adopting federal implementation plans, or FIPs, for each of the states covered by this rule. EPA encourages States to replace these FIPs with State Implementation Plans, or SIPs, starting as early as 2013.

EPA, states, tribes and local governments all play important roles in reaching clean air goals. With this rule, the Agency is renewing its commitment to implement the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which requires states to address the problem of interstate transport of air pollution. At the same time, states, tribes, and local agencies continue to work on local pollution control measures.

In a separate but related regulatory action, EPA also issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR) to require six states – Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin – to make summertime NOX reductions under the CSAPR ozone-season control program. Five of those states are already covered in the final rule for interstate fine particle pollution (PM2.5). With the inclusion of these states, a total of 26 states would be required to reduce ozone-season NOX emissions to assist in attaining the 1997 8-Hour Ozone NAAQS. Finalizing this supplemental proposal would bring the total number of covered states under the CSAPR to 28. EPA issued a proposal instead of a final action for these states in order to provide additional opportunity for public comment on their linkages to downwind nonattainment and maintenance areas. EPA is proposing to finalize this proposal by late fall 2011.

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The White HouseThe White House Logo *  The above story is adapted from materials provided by  The White House

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