Where Is That Pollution From Originally?

The smog hanging over your town may have been imported from the state next door.

Southern Company's Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia is one of the biggest coal-fired plants in the country. (Staff Photographer/Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

If you’ve ever driven cross-country, or even over to your neighboring state, you know it’s easy to leave one state and enter another. And the same thing goes for pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency thought they had a solution to this problem in July 2011 when they finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR, in an attempt to control emissions from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which are the pollutants that cause acid rain and smog.

But CSAPR was challenged in court and Reuters reports today that, “The power industry is waiting for a federal appeals court to rule on proposed emissions controls for coal-fired power plants, a decision with implications for energy sectors ranging from natural gas to coal to tradeable pollution permits. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is expected as soon as Tuesday...It delayed the decision on December 30, just two days before the rule was to enter force.”

Reuters went on to note that, “CSAPR also established a cap-and-trade system that enabled power producers to comply with the emission limits by buying, trading and selling pollution permits.”

Quoting from the EPA’s court filing, Bloomberg News stated, “The transport rule represents the culmination of decades of congressional, administrative and judicial efforts to fashion a workable, comprehensive regulatory approach to interstate air pollution issues that have huge public health implications.”

Southern Co., EME Homer City Generation LP, a unit of Edison International, and Energy Future Holdings Corp. units in Texas are among the power companies challenging the rule. In January, Business Week explained that, “The state of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers joined in parallel cases, saying the rule puts an undue financial burden on power producers and threatens electricity reliability by forcing companies to shut some older plants ...Coal accounts for 98 percent of sulfur dioxide and 92 percent of nitrogen oxides released into the air by power plants, according to the EPA. Texas consumes more electricity and uses more coal than any other state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”

It’s unclear which way the court is leaning. Environment & Energy Publishing noted, “The judges sharply questioned the challengers and EPA, with both sides at various points facing skepticism from the bench. At times, the judges appeared to struggle to reconcile language of the Clean Air Act with two of the same court’s previous decisions, an area of confusion that the parties are seeking to exploit.”

A ruling that upholds CSAPR would seem to be in our best interests since I’m not sure we can rely on the good-neighbor policy to reduce power plant emissions.

Do you think the court should uphold the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence

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