- The 2016 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) Update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) was sufficient to address the so-called "good neighbor" provisions of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded in a proposed determination published last week.
- The provisions are meant to address pollution from activities like electric generation, particularly when it becomes an issue in neighboring downwind states. New York and Connecticut, among other states, have sued the EPA, claiming the federal government was ignoring its duty to curb upwind emissions.
- EPA says that once the CSAPR update is fully implemented, upwind states in this region "are not expected to contribute significantly to nonattainment" of national air quality standards in any downwind states.
Twice last month, federal judges ruled the EPA must enforce the "good neighbor" provisions of the Clean Air Act. The agency in 2015 had concluded about two dozen states were failing to develop adequate pollution reduction plans, which was impacting the ability of downwind states to comply with national ambient air quality standards, setting off a two-year deadline to address the issue.
But EPA now says that's no longer true for 20 upwind states.
New York and Connecticut — which between them have nine upwind states they say are impacting their clean air attainment — sued earlier this year after that deadline passed. And while EPA recently denied petitions from Delaware to address out-of-state emissions, several lawmakers have petitioned the agency to reconsider.
True to President Donald Trump's campaign promises, his administration has been rolling back a variety of environmental rules that impact the utility sector, and coal plants in particular. While the administration may need to enforce the rules on the books, EPA's proposal last week criticized the CSAPR regulations and concluded there is no reason to add more rules to address the upwind/downwind issue.
"Instead of imposing additional top-down regulations, this action analyzes air quality trends and modeling that show states in the CSAPR Update region will meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS after the CSAPR Update is fully implemented, and additional upwind reductions are not required," EPA said in a statement accompanying the proposed finding.
According to the EPA, the most recent air quality data and modeling predict that by 2023 there will be no remaining nonattainment or maintenance areas for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS in the CSAPR Update region. And once the update is fully implemented, "upwind states in this region are not expected to contribute significantly to nonattainment or interfere with maintenance of 2008 ozone standards in any downwind state," the agency said.
The proposal would mean neither the EPA nor 20 states covered by the update would be obligated to establish additional requirements for sources to further reduce transported ozone pollution to meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS.
"Based on progress in reducing concentrations and precursor emissions of ozone, this proposed action will close out the CSAPR approach to ‘good neighbor’ obligations, which has involved the imposition of federal implementation plans and lingering uncertainty for our state partners," EPA Office of Air and Radiation Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum said in a statement.
Starting this year, Wehrum said the agency expects states to "step up to address these interstate obligations and EPA has identified technical tools and flexibilities to facilitate these plans."