Thursday, May 1, 2014

Supreme Court Revives EPA Rule Targeting Coal Power Plants

EPA's breakdown of power plant pollution
On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (6-2) that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can reinstate the  Cross State Air Pollution Rule, CSAPR, which allows EPA’s "cost-effective allocation of emissionsreductions among upwind states”  by requiring some state to clean up more than their fair share of pollution. CSAPR dictates each State’s emissions reduction goals and the Federal Implementation Plans to obtain those goals at the State level. However, the EPA had used computer modeling to generate emissions “budgets” for each upwind State without regard for the amount of pollution each state was contributing to a downwind problem, but based instead on the cost of remediation. Now the Supreme Court has confirmed requiring the level of cleanup to be based on cost and requiring more work to be done where the cost of capturing a ton of sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide was the lowest creating a pollution trading system.

Back in  August 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled (2-1) that the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, CSAPR, exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority by requiring some state to clean up more than their fair share of pollution. The Supreme Court has overruled that decision. CASPR was intended to prevent pollution from one state from moving into other states and preventing them from meeting their air quality goals. CSAPR, when implemented will reduce SO2 emissions by 73% from 2005 levels and NOx emissions by 54% at the approximately 1,000 coal fired electrical generation plants in the eastern half of the country. The industry has indicated that many of these plants may be forced to close. This rule is intended to help downwind states unfairly impacted by upwind states attain their 24-Hour and/or Annual particulate pollution of 2.5 micrometers or less called PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and the 1997 8-Hour Ozone NAAQS. CSAPR will replace EPA's 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). 

The earth’s atmosphere is interconnected. That is accepted when it comes to carbon dioxide, but it also applies to industrial pollutants and soot. The EPA has estimated that just one-quarter of U.S. measured pollution emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the contiguous U.S. The remainder enters the global cycle. Conversely, current estimates are that less than half of all measured coal pollution emissions deposited within the United States comes from American sources. According to the Mount Bachelor Observatory, Chinese exports include acid rain that falls in China, Korea, and Japan, and pollutants that enter the air stream including sulfates, NOx, black carbon, soot produced by cars, stoves, factories, and crop burning. EPA can now address these pollutants based on the cost of remediation instead of based on contribution by a state.

However, as a president, CSAPR may do much more. In the next two months the EPA is expected to propose a new sweeping set of Clean Air Act regulations to cut emission of carbon dioxide to fight global warming. According to the EPA the largest source of carbon dioxide is coal fired power plants, this decision will mark the end of the era of using coal to generate electricity in power plants. This era began with the oil crisis in 1972 and will end with CSAPR. However, using this decision EPA can allocate carbon dioxide “budgets” based on costs to meet the budget and potentially creates a national carbon trading market for carbon dioxide. In addition, it could create interstate trade and tariff  issues when allocating carbon dioxide and methane “budgets” in a world of greenhouse gas caps and trade markets.
from EIA

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