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Cleaning Up Power Plants & Big Polluters

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Cleaning Up Power Plants & Big Polluters

The Clean Air Act has been the law of the land for over 40 years, with a proven track record of success in cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment and spurring American innovation. It’s past time to clean up our nation’s dirtiest sources of pollution, and it is critical the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to implement the Clean Air Act, one of the nation’s most effective public health protection laws.

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Government studies show that the health benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed its costs by a 40-to-1 ratio. It is essential that the Obama Administration use the tools it currently possesses to protect public health and the environment from the devastating impact of climate change. The Clean Air Act is a appropriate law to address just the kind of emerging public health threat presented by global warming. Fortunately, after years of delay under the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is moving forward to enforce the Clean Air Act and cut global warming emissions and toxic pollution from some of the nation’s largest sources, including large power plants and other big polluters.

Scroll down to see current rulemakings that are under way to achieve reductions in dangerous pollution:

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Proposed Fine Particulate Matter (Soot) Standards

On December 14, 2012, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller), meeting a court-ordered deadline. Particulate matter- also known as soot- comes from power plants, cars, and other industrial sources, and has serious health implications. It is known to contribute to heart disease, asthma, and even premature death, particularly in vulnerable populations such as children, and the elderly. Moreover, certain types of particulate matter-black carbon and aerosols in particular-are believed to contribute to climate change. These strengthened standards may then have a role to play in helping to mitigate climate change. The NAAQS updates strengthen the limits set for fine particulate matter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter per year, lowered from the level of 15 micrograms set in 1997. The agency decided not to update the daily PM 2.5 standard, maintaining it at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The strengthened standards are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths, and to yield healthcare savings between $4 and $9.1 billion in per year by 2020.

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Carbon Pollution Standards

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, a national plan for tackling climate change that includes limiting carbon pollution from power plants. In a follow-up Presidential memorandum, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop standards that would reduce carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants. Click here to find out more.

Natural Gas Well Picture"Fracking" Air Pollution Standards

On April 17, 2012, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized updated standards to reduce air pollution from the production, storage, and transmission of oil and natural gas. Proposed in 2011, the Final Air Rules for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, will greatly reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from wells that are hydraulically fractured. The rule would also reduce emissions of air toxics and of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (CC photo credit: flickr/pennstatelive.)

 

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boilersmall.jpgMercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants, Boilers, Brick and Cement Kilns

After many years of delay, in December 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency announced final rules to require power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants including mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other hazardous substances.  While some provisions were subsequently reopened for additional public comments and changes, companies are moving forward to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) over a period of several years. By requiring state-of-the-art pollution controls, the standards will save lives, reduce asthma attacks and other illnesses, and create jobs installing new equipment. In an important victory for the environment and public health, a federal appeals court upheld the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards in April 2014.

 

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  • Clean Air Promise Comes To Holyoke

Clean Air Promise comes to Holyoke: wwlp.com

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Air PollutionCross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)

The Obama Administration’s version of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), finalized on July 6, 2011, requires 28 states in the East, Midwest, and South to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that cross state lines and degrade air quality in downward states. Each year, CSAPR will prevent thousands of premature deaths, save tens of billions of dollars in health costs, and protect the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and attain clean air standards.


In 2011, a congressional effort to repeal CSAPR failed by bipartisan vote, but the benefits of CSAPR were delayed when in December 2011 the DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals blocked implementation, then in August 2012 struck down the rule and sent it back to EPA for a re-write. EPA appealed the case to the Supreme Court.  In April 2014, in a tremendous victory for public health and the environment, the Supreme Court upheld the rule, allowing EPA to move forward with implementation.


CSAPR replaced a 2005 rule issued by the Bush Administration; a court decision in 2008 kept the 2005 rule in place temporarily but directed the EPA to rewrite the rule.  The Obama Administration’s 2011 rule addressed the issues raised by the court in 2008.

 

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Ozonesmall.jpgOzone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Ozone is one of the primary pollutants that make up smog, causing unsafe air quality days. Exposure to smog triggers asthma attacks, causes permanent lung damage and can even lead to premature death. In 2008, the Bush Administration issued ozone standards that were challenged in court as too weak to adequately protect public health and the environment.  Shortly after President Obama took office in 2009, the new Administration asked the court to put the case on hold while the Administration reconsidered the ozone standards. In 2011, EPA was on the verge of proposing stronger ozone standards when President Obama—yielding to opponents’ arguments that strengthening the ozone standards would harm the already-weak economy—decided to leave the 2008 standards in place while continuing to review them. A coalition of groups have taken legal action to require EPA to finalize a new standard for ozone by October 1, 2015, and in April 2014, in a victory for the groups, a federal judge indicated she would reject EPA’s request to delay the standards until November 2015.

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