New EPA Data Shows Air Quality Improvements in Midwest

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new information demonstrating the clean air benefits of President George Bush's Clear Skies Initiative. Clear Skies requires America's power plants to reduce air pollution by an average of 70 percent.

The new analytical data released today shows what effect that nationwide reduction will have on air quality, water quality and public health in each region of the country. EPA reports every part of the country where power plants contribute significantly to air pollution - most notably, the northeast, southeast and midwest - will see vast improvements in air quality.

Many cities and towns will meet air quality standards for the first time in years. Specifically for EPA's Region 5, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, Clear Skies is projected to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power generators by 62 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 74 percent and mercury emissions by 63 percent by2020.

On Feb. 14, Bush announced the Clear Skies initiative, which sets strict mandatory emissions caps for three of the most harmful air pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury - by setting mandatory emissions caps. EPA claims the initiative will eliminate 35 million more tons of these pollutants in the next decade than the current Clean Air Act. The agency used sophisticated computer modeling techniques to specifically identify improvements in local and regional air and water quality that will occur as a result of emissions caps.

"This new data shows that we can improve the quality of the air we breathe and achieve these results faster, at less cost to consumers and in a way that makes sense for the environment, for industry and for the health of the American people," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

The annual health benefits of Clear Skies in Region 5 by 2020 as predicted by EPA include:

  • Approximately 2,500 fewer premature deaths;
  • More than 1,500 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis;
  • More than 2,000 fewer hospitalizations/emergency room visits;
  • Approximately 50,000 fewer asthma attacks.

It is estimated that Region 5 would see approximately $19 billion in benefits by 2020 from the reductions of fine particles alone. Six counties (home to approximately 2 million people) in Region 5 would come into attainment with the fine particle standard under Clear Skies by 2010 (beyond expectations from existing programs). By 2020, 12 counties (home to approximately 5 million people) would come into attainment with the fine particle standard under Clear Skies (beyond expectations from existing programs).

More region-specific information on the Clear Skies Initiative is available on the EPA Clear Skies Web site at www.epa.gov/clearskies.

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