by JOHN M. BRODER
New York Times
06 July 2010
Acting under federal court order, the Obama administration
proposed new air-quality rules on Tuesday for coal-burning power
plants that officials said would bring major reductions in soot
and smog from Texas to the Eastern Seaboard.
Environmental Protection Agency is issuing the rules to replace
a plan from the administration of President George W. Bush that
a federal judge threw out in 2008, citing numerous flaws in the
calculation of air-quality effects.
head of the E.P.A.’s air and radiation office, said the new
rules would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen
oxides by hundreds of thousands of tons a year and bring $120
billion in annual health benefits. Those benefits, Ms. McCarthy
said, include preventing 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths,
23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis,
240,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.9 million missed school
and work days.
The rule would
substantially reduce the unhealthy smog that shrouds American
cities, especially during heat waves like the one now enveloping
much of the East.
The cost of
compliance to utilities and other operators of smog-belching
power plants would be $2.8 billion a year, according to E.P.A.
attempting to give people cleaner air to breathe,” Ms. McCarthy
regulation will require utilities operating coal-burning plants
to install scrubbers and other technology to reduce emissions of
the pollutants. Some companies may decide to retire older plants
rather than invest in new control measures because other new
rules under the Clean Air Act are expected in the coming years.
A spokesman for
the utility industry said companies had already achieved large
reductions in the pollutants since 1990.
proposal would require dramatic reductions in power-sector
emissions, on top of major reductions to date, on a very short
timeline,” said Dan Riedinger of the Edison Electric Institute,
the main lobby for the utilities.
were grateful, Mr. Riedinger said, that they would be allowed to
trade emissions permits, but the prospect of tougher standards
on other pollutants beginning in 2012 created “a great deal of
advocates welcomed the new rules, saying they were better than
those proposed by the Bush administration and more likely to
survive legal challenge. But they also said that the E.P.A.
still had a lot of work to do.
proposal is a big step in the right direction,” said Frank
O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group. “It’s a step
toward taming the environmental beast known as the coal-fired
power plant. But it is only a first step. E.P.A. still needs to
move ahead with plans next year to limit power plant emissions
of toxic mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.”
The new rules do
not address power plant emissions of carbon dioxide and five
other pollutants that contribute to global warming. The Obama
administration is moving forward with a plan to phase in
regulation of such heat-trapping gases, a move that is being
challenged in Congress and in the courts.
being singled out in the new rule making — sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides — react in the atmosphere to form fine particles
(soot) and ground-level ozone (smog). They are easily carried by
the wind and affect states and cities far downwind from the
plants where they are produced. The proposed regulation, called
a transport rule, would apply to power plants in 31 states east
of the Rockies, with the exception of the Dakotas, Vermont, New
Hampshire and Maine.
The agency will hold hearings in
the coming months.
A version of this
article appeared in print on July 7, 2010, on page A10 of the
New York edition.