EPA Ignores Improved Air Quality to Advance Regulation

A new report finds that many of the air quality goals of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) have already been achieved. Thus, these controversial and costly rules are largely unneeded.

CSAPR is often referred to as the “good neighbor rule.” Its intent is to curb emissions from states that “contribute significantly” with the maintenance of healthy air quality in neighboring states. Specifically, the rule addresses emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are the main precursors to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone. Compliance costs for this rule, according to EPA, are $2.4 billion annually. Several states — including those not affected by the rule — have filed a lawsuit suing the EPA to delay implementation of CSAPR, which becomes effective January 1, 2012.

But according to a recent report conducted by Alpine Geophysics for the Midwest Ozone Group, these contentious rules are largely unnecessary with improvements already occurring in the affected areas.

To support this rule, EPA took emission data from 2003-2007 to determine which states were significantly contributing to poor downwind air quality. The Agency then applied computer modeling to predict which states would likely be “bad neighbors” in 2012 and 2014 — essentially contributing more than 1% of the level of nonattainment of ozone and PM2.5.

However, EPA has released more recent data from 2007-2010 that shows things have significantly improved, accomplishing regulatory outcomes in areas that will be forced to comply — without spending billions of dollars in questionable permitting schemes. For example, EPA data from 2003-2007 shows that 16 areas don’t meet air quality standards for ozone and an additional 16 areas don’t meet standards for PM2.5. According to the newer data, these numbers have been reduced to 6 and 2 areas respectively. This data was available to EPA during the crafting of the rule and its omission is puzzling.

Over the past few decades, ozone and particulate matter emissions have declined nearly 30 percent and they continue to decline. Precursor emissions of SO2 and nitrogen oxide NOx have fallen nearly twice as fast. It’s not clear — environmentally or financially — what is to be gained from this rule. States have proven that they are more than equipped to curb emissions without Washington’s expensive, burdensome, and rushed regulatory agenda.

Read the full report here. Read my past blog on faults with EPA’s implementation of CSAPR here.

Adam Peshek is a research associate at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets, where he focuses on energy and environmental policy.