Nearly 400 power plants and industrial boilers in 12 states must dramatically reduce smog-producing emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled Friday.
"This action means healthier air for communities located near these polluting plants. But it will also provide public health protection for communities hundreds of miles away where air pollution is carried by the wind across state boarders," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.
For the first time, EPA has acted under the Clean Air Act to grant petitions submitted by states for relief from smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions emanating across state lines.
On Friday, Browner granted petitions from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
The jurisdictions affected by the ruling are Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Six jurisdictions targeted are among those that have filed petitions of their own with EPA: New York and Pennsylvania, whose petitions where approved, and New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, which have petitions pending.
The EPA mandate requires that 392 facilities reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 510,000 tons a year by May 2003.
The agency said it is establishing a trading program that will "allow facilities to meet their required reductions in a cost-effective, flexible way.
While environmentalists applauded EPA's efforts, other groups were not as accepting of the new order.
David Flannery, legal counsel for the Midwest Ozone Group, which includes more than 30 companies, trade organizations and associations, said his group is concerned about the initiative because it is flawed.
"This initiative, like all of Ms. Browner's others, suffers from the fact that it has no scientific basis and no legal bearing," said Flannery. "She continues to advance the notion that controls need to be put on all plants across the country for cost considerations, regardless of their current impact on air quality. There is no authority in the Clean Air Act that says you can base controls on a source because of cost."
Flannery said the association will proceed accordingly with a suit to block the EPA's action. MOG has been involved in the court case stemming from the EPA order last year aimed at the 22 states.