HARRISBURG, Pa.-Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary James Seif called new clean-air regulations approved recently by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) "a major milestone in Pennsylvania's efforts to reduce ozone pollution."
The EQB unanimously approved the new regulations which require a 75 percent reduction in ozone-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) coming from power plants and other large industrial boilers.
"Over the last five years, Pennsylvania has done its fair share to reduce the two-thirds of our air pollution that comes from power plants, industry and motor vehicles," Seif said. "We now call on utilities in the Midwest and South to take the same steps.
"While we have been working hard to clean Pennsylvania's air, many parts of the Commonwealth can't meet federal health standards for ozone pollution without significant pollution reductions by utilities in other states."
One-third of Pennsylvania's ozone pollution comes from utility power plants in the Midwest and South.
The regulation sets a cap on the total emissions allowed by Pennsylvania's power plants and industrial boilers at no more than 50,000 tons per year. This is a 75 percent reduction from 1990 levels. Power plants will have to meet this cap by 2003.
In addition, the regulation provides incentives for facilities that reduce emissions earlier than required and that use innovative technology or use creative solutions to achieve the reductions not only of nitrogen oxide, but also mercury, heavy metals and sulfur dioxide.
Power plants such as Edison Mission Energy at Homer City and PPL's Montour plant already have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
The regulation also contains a special provision requiring reductions in pollution in power plants, regardless of where they are located. This section of the rule only becomes active if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fails to put in place a program to cut power-plant emissions from utilities in eight states and the District of Columbia.
The EQB's decision comes after the full U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld new rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would mean strict emissions reductions from power plants in 18 states, including Pennsylvania. In that ruling, the court said the states must submit their plans on how they will reduce ozone to EPA by Oct. 30.
The regulation previously had garnered support from the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania, the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group and the Group Against Smog & Pollution.
"With the EQB's ruling, we are confident that Pennsylvania will be able to submit its plan to EPA ahead of schedule," Seif said. "This means that Pennsylvanians will notice a tremendous difference in their air quality.
"The pollution reductions required by this rule and the recent federal court decision put in place the regional ozone pollution control plan Gov. Ridge called for in 1995. It's been a long road, but we're getting the job done."