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Midwest vs. Northeast? EPA's NOx Policy

Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1999

September to find that seven of the petitions have merit, and that sources in 19 states and the District of Columbia "significantly contribute" to nonattainment of ozone limits or interfere with the ability of one or more petitioning states to maintain clean air (see map, Upwind, Downwind). If the government makes the requested finding for any petition, it will impose emission control requirements for targeted sources. The sources named in the petitions fall into the category of fossil fuel-fired indirect heat exchangers.

Because the SIP call process overlaps considerably with the process for reviewing the Section 126 petitions, the EPA says it is coordinating the two actions as much as possible. In fact, if the states affected by the SIP call submit plans that the agency proposes to approve, the EPA may defer any final action on the Section 126 petitions until May 1, 2000. If the EPA doesn't propose approval by Nov. 30 of the SIPs whose sources are targeted or grant final approval of the plans by May 1, 2000, however, the seven petitions having merit automatically would be granted as of Nov. 30 or May 1, 2000, as appropriate.

Whether automatic or otherwise, approval of the petitions would obligate affected sources to reduce NOx emissions that significantly contribute to interstate transport of ozone. A federal NOx budget trading program, a capped market-based system for certain combustion sources in covered upwind states, will be triggered if the EPA makes a finding for any Section 126 petition. The federal program may be integrated with the cap-and-trade programs established under the final SIP call and FIP.

Because the FIP and Section 126 petition proposals rely on the same federal NOx budget trading program as the primary control strategy for reducing NOx, public comments on both proposals were presented at a combined hearing Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C.


Vermont and Maine Cite Distant Sources

Representatives of several petitioning states, as well as those from environmental, industry and regional groups, presented comments at the October hearing. Comments from representatives of Vermont and Maine focused on details of the EPA's implementation of the FIP and Section 126 petitions.

The Vermont Petition. Vermont is the one state whose petition the EPA proposes to deny in its entirety. But the state argued at the hearing that more analysis by the EPA is warranted before the agency makes a final ruling.

According to the EPA, Vermont's petition named certain fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating facilities within an area extending 1,000 miles southwest from Bennington, Vt. This area includes all or parts of 22 states and the District of Columbia. The petition requests emissions limitations and a compliance schedule for sources within the specified area.

The EPA proposes to deny Vermont's petition in full because it says the state has no problems with outside sources contributing to its nonattainment of ozone limits with respect to the revised, eight-hour ozone standard. Thus, says EPA, Vermont has "no future projected nonattainment problems based on available analyses." The agency adds that it is "proposing to deny the Vermont petition in full