Skip to content

EPA finalizes cross-state smog plan over Manchin’s objection

'Good Neighbor' rule targets emissions that trigger smog in neighboring states

Emissions that cross state lines and cause smog are targeted by the new rule.
Emissions that cross state lines and cause smog are targeted by the new rule. (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

​The EPA on Wednesday finalized its “good neighbor” plan, which aims to cut down on cross-state smog pollution from power plants and other industrial sources, despite a request to delay it from the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The plan will require 23 states to take steps to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides that form ground-level ozone, or smog, that make it difficult for downwind states to meet 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. The agency estimated in a fact sheet that during the 2026 summer ozone season, the rule will reduce NOx emissions by approximately 70,000 tons.

EPA

“This action will help our state partners make stronger air quality health standards and fulfill EPA’s Clean Air Act obligation to address pollution that significantly contributes to small traveling beyond a state’s boundaries,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement Wednesday.

On March 8, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., had written to Regan, asking that the agency delay finalizing the rule, raising concerns that it would force plant retirements and raise energy prices.

“EPA must clearly demonstrate how it is working with states, grid operators, and utilities to ensure electricity reliability and address the dire warnings from elected officials, our nation’s electricity experts, and key manufacturing industries,” Manchin said.

In response, Regan said features in the final rule “give a lot of flexibility for the electricity generating units.”

“We’ve consulted with regional planning organizations, and this rule has some built in features that we believe allows for us to achieve our public health goals, but also doesn’t jeopardize reliability,” Regan said.

2023 start

Beginning with the 2023 summer ozone season, power plants in 22 states will be required to participate in a revised cross-state air pollution rule trading program, which sets emission budgets that decline over time. The rule’s 2027 budget will require a 50 percent reduction from the 2021 ozone season.

During the first year, the program would focus on reducing emissions through emission controls already installed at power plants, with further reductions using new emissions controls to be phased in starting in 2024.

Beginning in 2026, the rule will also set enforceable NOx emission control requirements for both new and existing sources in nine industries that are estimated to have an impact on downwind air quality, including waste incineration, iron and steel mills, and natural gas transmission.

The agency estimated that annual net benefits would be $13 billion each year from 2023 through 2042, and that the rule will prevent 1,300 premature deaths and cut asthma symptoms by 2.3 million cases.

It also estimated that the cost of achieving these reductions would be approximately $910 million annually over the same period, and that the plan will increase the overall costs of electricity production by only slightly more than 1 percent.

In public comments, regional transmission organization PJM Interconnection had raised concerns that certain features of the proposed rule had “the potential to trigger material impacts to the reliability of the bulk electric system.” Other industry groups expressed worry that it would increase the costs of doing business.

Recent Stories

Wyden wants more Medicaid funding to keep obstetric units open

Supreme Court’s redistricting decision could hurt map challengers

Does Joe Biden need a miracle or just a bit of good luck?

Graves decides not to run after Louisiana district redrawn

Garland won’t face contempt of Congress charge over Biden audio

Hold on to your bats! — Congressional Hits and Misses