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The EPA Speaks Out: The Clean Air Interstate Rule Explained

The Environmental Protection Agency reviews how the multi-pollutant control concept is to work.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2005

achieve significant NO X reductions across states covered by the rule. By 2015, CAIR will reduce power plant NO X emissions by 2 million tons, achieving a regional emissions level of 1.3 million tons (61 percent reduction from 2003 levels). These emission reductions are substantial and will provide much of the reductions necessary for states to meet fine particle and ozone air quality standards.

The emission reductions required by CAIR will translate into major improvements in air quality in the CAIR region. The rule will help cities and states in the East meet the new, more stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and fine particles. CAIR, in conjunction with recent mobile source and state regulatory actions already undertaken, will reduce the number of ozone nonattainment areas in the east from 104 in 2005 to 5 by 2015. For fine particles, attainment gains also will be impressive, with the nonattainment in the east dropping from 43 areas in 2005 to 14 areas in 2015 ( see Figure 9 ). In addition, CAIR will help those remaining areas move closer to attainment. State efforts to address any residual nonattainment issues will become much easier as a result of CAIR.

The public benefits derived from the emission reductions are huge. EPA estimates the monetary value of the annual benefits for human health and welfare to be $86 billion to $101 billion in 2015. These monetized benefits include the prevention of 17,000 premature deaths, 22,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 12,300 hospital admissions, 1.7 million lost workdays, and 500,000 lost school days annually. Benefits to the public that EPA is unable to quantify in monetary terms include reductions of mercury emissions, acid rain, coastal and estuarine water eutrophication, and impaired visibility outside of the selected national parks used in the analysis. For instance, CAIR is expected to result in 11 tons of additional mercury reductions in 2015. Because of additional emission reductions post-2015 from CAIR, EPA anticipates even greater annual health and environmental benefits thereafter.

The Clean Air Interstate Rule represents a significant step forward toward the attainment of air quality standards in the eastern United States. The impacts on electricity prices and fuel markets are reasonable, and energy diversity and reliability will be maintained, with more than $25 of benefits to every dollar of increased electricity generating costs. 6 EPA looks forward to working with states and the power industry to implement CAIR and to reap the rewards of putting this multi-pollutant emission reduction concept to work.


  1. All values are real 1999 dollars.
  2. In 1996, EPA began evaluating multi-pollutant control strategies with various stakeholders in the Clean Air Power Initiative (CAPI), which considered ways to lower power plant air emissions through phased-in cap and trade programs that lowered compliance costs and provided certainty on future controls while providing substantial emissions reductions.
  3. This paper is based upon analyses done in support of the Final CAIR, and in particular, relies upon information in the Final CAIR Regulatory Impact Analysis, March 2005. This study and other technical information on the rule can be found at