December 22, 2003
Volume 81, Number 51
CENEAR 81 51 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347


Proposals seek NOx, SO2, and mercury cuts from coal-fired power plants


Last week, EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt proposed plans to cut mercury, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide emissions in 29 states and the District of Columbia over the next decade and a half.

The proposals mainly affect air emissions by old coal-fired power plants and would require the plants to meet emissions targets in 2010 and 2015. The proposals set national emission caps and allow utilities to meet them by pollution trading as well as by installing controls.

The result would be cutbacks in NOx by 65% (1.8 million tons) and in SO2 by 70% (5.6 million tons) annually by 2015.

The mercury reductions are proposed separately and required under a court order because of Clinton Administration foot-dragging.

For mercury, Leavitt has two proposals. Both back away from a Clinton-era agreement requiring utilities to meet a 90% mercury reduction by 2007. One approach would simply require utilities to comply with the proposed NOx and SO2 emissions reductions; as a cobenefit, mercury will be reduced by 69% (33 tons). A second approach calls for utilities to reach a 29% reduction by 2007 (C&EN, Dec. 15, page 20).

Leavitt's proposals shadow the Bush Administration's Clear Skies Initiative, stopped in Congress.

Industry and utility groups generally applaud Leavitt's proposals but note that compliance will be expensive. State air regulators back the cuts but say the reductions would come quicker through enforcement of the Clean Air Act's new source review provisions, which the Bush Administration dropped (C&EN, March 11, 2002, page 33).

Environmental groups also oppose trading of mercury, a hazardous air pollutant and neurotoxic agent that is especially harmful to children.


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