With budget battles heating up in Washington, Congress and the Obama administration are squaring off to debate energy policy legislation. While Democratic leadership favors a clean energy standard...
OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA
OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA
Does cleaner air mean lighter pockets?
The Ozone Transport Advisory Group has recommended that the EPA should let states adopt a range of emissions levels to help meet ozone standards, which could tap into utilities' profits. The proposal comes two years after OTAG was formed to study region-to-region airborne movements of smog, a byproduct of ozone.
Coal-fired power plants and vehicle exhaust are the biggest contributors to ozone, due to emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
Where NOx control costs shake out, however, still depends on how the Environmental Protection Agency works the OTAG recommendations into its pollution rules on ozone and particulates, or soot. The EPA had proposed revisions to ozone and particulate standards on Nov. 27. See, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone: Proposed Decision, EPA Dkt. No. A-95-58, 61 Fed.Reg. 65716 (Dec. 13, 1996); National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter: Prop. Decision, EPA Dkt. No. A-95-54, 61 Fed.Reg. 65638, (Dec. 13, 1996).
President Clinton came out in support of tougher regulations in late June, however, and his version varies only slightly from the set the EPA unveiled last fall. Clinton's support was expected to make it easier to adopt new rules, though Congress could try to throw up a roadblock. One leading voice against the EPA's revisions is Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Commerce Committee.
EPA's proposal would replace the one-hour primary ozone standard of 0.12 parts per million (ppm) with an eight-hour standard of 0.08 ppm. EPA also proposed to revise the current particulates standard by adding two new standards for "PM sub2.5" particles or those with an aerodyamic diameter less than or equal to a nominal 2.5 micrometers: 1) an annual mean of 15 mg per cubic meter (m3), and 2) a 24-hour average of 50 mg/m3.
A July 19 court deadline required that EPA tighten air-quality rules. Prior to then, some argued for a political solution, as White House environmental and economic advisors were at odds on the costs/benefits of increased regulation. Even allowing for emissions trading, the EPA has estimated the cost of NOx compliance at more than $2 billion per year in the 37-state OTAG region.
OTAG was wrapping up meetings at press time (em before its June 30 disbanding (em to discuss emissions caps and trading schemes.
After EPA issues a rulemaking on the new standards, and hears public comment, it will issue state implementation plans.
The Price Tag
According to Armond Cohen, director of the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group, EPA's $2-billion estimate for mitigating NOx does not include the cost of controlling acid rain or sulphur dioxide emissions. If it did, the figure would climb as high as $7 billion a year. The figure also only includes fossil fuel power plants larger than 15 megawatts, he adds.
"We believe that the total package to get the U.S. fossil fuel fleet up to the standard of new plants would be in the range of $5 to $8 billion a year," he says.