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Midwest vs. Northeast? EPA's NOx Policy
Eight states blame upwind sources. Agency to revisit emissions targets.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Sept. 24 rule for 22 eastern states to file plans to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions would ostensibly reduce transport of ground-level ozone, or smog, in so-called "nonattainment areas." But eight of these affected states have filed petitions arguing that NOx emissions blowing in from nearby jurisdictions must be controlled before they can comply.
So far, in preliminary statements, the EPA has indicated that at least some of these petitions have merit. The petitions still face a final agency review - and perhaps a day in court as well - but already they appear to have reinvigorated the classic environmental dispute: Upwind vs. Downwind.
The Sept. 24 ruling on state implementation plans, or the SIP call, as it is known, is aimed at reducing NOx emissions in the eastern United States by 1.1 million tons annually, or 28 percent overall by 2007. Although the EPA is allowing individual states to choose which sources will be targeted to reduce emissions, the final rule notes that "utilities and large non-utility point sources would be one of the most likely sources of NOx emissions reductions."
The 23 affected jurisdictions (see table, Affected Jurisdictions, and map, Upwind, Downwind) must submit SIPs to the EPA by September and implement chosen controls by May 1, 2003. Compliance with the state NOx "budgets," which the EPA may revise following a comment period that ends Feb. 22, is expected by Sept. 30, 2007. A "cap-and-trade" program similar to the one in place for sodium dioxide, or SO2, is part of the government's plan.
Cost-effective emissions control measures are central to the EPA's plan. Its annual cost estimate to reach the emissions goal is $1.7 billion, which is calculated using a figure of $1,500 per ton. Other controls would cost between $2,000 and $10,000 per ton, says Carol M. Browner, EPA administrator.
The SIP Call:
Success Pivots on Two Related Proposals
On the day it issued the smog-reduction ruling, the EPA issued two other proposals central to making the SIP call work: federal requirements for smog reduction in any state that fails to respond to the SIP call, and action on petitions filed under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act.
The EPA's federal implementation plan, or FIP, will be promulgated immediately if any state fails to respond adequately to the SIP call. The proposed requirements mandate that the emission reduction measures be implemented on the same schedule as the SIP call.
The agency also proposed action on the Section 126 petitions filed by eight Northeastern states requesting ozone reductions across state boundaries. The petitioning states are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. While the EPA considered ozone impacts on states throughout the eastern half of the nation in the SIP call, it is restricted to considering only the impacts of certain upwind sources on petitioning states in acting on the Section 126 petitions.
The agency plans to issue its final ruling on the petitions on April 30. It proposed in