Regulatory Update: EPA Transport Rule [Save as PDF]
What does it take to be a good neighbor? In the EPA's eyes, when this question is applied nationally to air quality, the answer is that states must be held responsible for pollutants created within their boundaries with the potential to impact public health elsewhere.
The good neighbor concept is behind EPA's proposed Air Transport Rule, published in draft on August 2, which impacts a total of 31 "upwind" Eastern and Midwestern states, plus the District of Columbia. If enacted as proposed, the rule will affect electric power generating units with capacity of 25-megawatt and larger.
Exactly how plants in each state will be affected remains to be seen, since the EPA is leaving it up to the states to determine the best way of complying with emission limits. Application and budgeting, therefore, will be state-specific.
"Until the Transport Rule ball starts rolling, it's hard to know what the effect will be," says Marlin Anderson, Senior Environmental Consultant at Neundorfer.
The Transport Rule is concerned with two pollutants—sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—that react in the atmosphere, forming fine particle pollution and ground level ozone or smog.
The EPA specifies two categories for emission limits in this rule: fine particles (measured in annual SO2 and NOx emissions) and ozone (measured in NOx emissions during summer months). Of the states affected, 26 must reduce NOx emissions during summer months, and 28 must reduce annual SO2 and NOx emissions.
As proposed, the Transport Rule will roll out compliance limits in phases. These are summarized below.
Annual SO2 and NOx
- Phase 1 - Compliance by January 1, 2012
- Phase 2 - Compliance by January 1, 2014
- Phase 1 - Compliance by May 1, 2012
- Phase 2 - Compliance by May 1, 2014
"This rule was written as a replacement for the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and its ‘Cap and Trade’ provision." Marlin says. "Starting in 2012, there will be some inter-state trading programs but no intra-state trading."
The Transport Rule represents a somewhat new approach EPA is using to protect public health and help nonattainment areas meet air quality standards. Again, application specifics will be different in each state.
"In some cases, complying with the Transport Rule will require installing new equipment," Marlin says. "Other plants won't have to do anything except submit to testing. Since each state has to reduce pollutants by a certain amount, the best strategy for meeting emission limits will vary."
Ultimately, the EPA's goal is to reduce SO2 emissions by 71% and NOx emissions by 52% compared with 2005 levels. The Transport Rule is just part of that plan; other regulations, at both state and Federal levels, will be needed to cut emissions by the specified amounts.