The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday morning announced finalized new rules on interstate air pollution, regulating downwind interstate pollution.
The latest “Good Neighbor” rule will affect nitrogen oxide pollution that is a key ingredient in smog from facilities in 23 states. On a call with reporters, EPA Administrator Michael Regan estimated about 80 million people in the U.S. live in areas downwind of smog pollution.
“We know air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line,” Regan said in a statement. “Today’s action will help our state partners meet stronger air quality health standards beyond borders, saving lives and improving public health in impacted communities across the United States.”
The rule addresses the fact that “pollution can concentrate downwind and that those downwind communities have few tools on their own to address it,” Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway (D) said on the call.
“In Wisconsin, we’ve made great progress on improving air quality over the last couple of decades,” she continued. “But we still have multiple non-attainment zones for ozone, and with the hotter summers that we know are coming from climate change, we are at risk of exacerbating this problem.”
EPA estimates project that the rule will cut about 70,000 tons in pollutants from power plants by 2026 and that in 2026 alone it will create public health benefits that prevent about 1,300 premature deaths, 1.3 million asthma cases and more than 2,000 hospitalizations. The rule will take effect for power plants this year and for industrial facilities in 2026.
The finalized rule’s projections represent about 24,000 fewer tons in reductions than that of the initial proposal the EPA released in March 2022. Asked about the discrepancy, Joe Goffman, principal deputy assistant administrator at the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said this was due to the final rule applying to three fewer states than the proposed version.
In a statement, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee and a longtime critic of the rule, said, “This regulation not only burdens 23 states with overreaching emissions reductions requirements for power plants, it also targets specific industries vital to our economy, including iron, steel, cement, and pulp and paper. With this plan, the Biden administration is imposing yet another regulation to accomplish its ultimate goal of shutting down fossil fuel plants and making America less energy independent.”
Committee Chair Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), however, praised the rule: “The air pollution blowing into Delaware from our upwind neighbors not only negatively impacts the health of our most vulnerable but also creates an economic burden for our state. The ‘Good Neighbor’ Plan is about making sure that all states do their part to clean up the air we breathe and I applaud EPA’s work to prioritize the health and well-being of all Americans with this final rule.”
The EPA’s previous plan is already the subject of a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) after the agency declined to approve the plan developed by state officials.
“The anticipated federal implementation plan would do immeasurable harm to our state sovereignty and to numerous industries across Texas that would be burdened by new, onerous federal regulations,” Paxton wrote in February. “The state-level plan put forth by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meets federal air quality standards, and the EPA’s hyper-politicized decision to reject our plan must be reversed.”
The Hill has reached out to Paxton’s office to
clarify whether the lawsuit will continue against the final rule.