Philadelphia Intervenes in Defense of EPA Air Pollution Rule to Reduce Harmful Emissions from Power Plants

City files to protect Philadelphia residents’ health and to oppose efforts to delay Cross State Air Pollution Rule

Philadelphia, October 25, 2011 – The City filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday to intervene in defense of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). CSAPR, when implemented, will reduce the transport of harmful air pollutants from coal-fired power plants in upwind states to downwind regions such as Philadelphia.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter said, “Studies have shown that the benefits of CSAPR far exceed the cost of compliance, and the longer polluters delay implementation of this vital rule, the longer Philadelphia residents—particularly sensitive groups such as children, seniors, and those with health issues—will be denied the tremendous health and economic benefits of cleaner air.”

Operators of coal-fired power plants that are major contributors to downwind air pollution and the upwind states that they call home have challenged CSAPR on the grounds that they will be unable to comply with the regulation in the required timeframe. However, CSAPR’s challengers have long been aware of the required reductions and have had time to prepare. Several power plants in upwind states have already installed necessary pollution control devices to reduce airborne emissions and aid in CSAPR compliance.

Promulgated under the Clean Air Act, CSAPR establishes a market-based, emissions trading system that will limit the release of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, that travel long distances through the air and contribute to harmful levels of smog (ozone) and soot (fine particulates). The emission of these pollutants from coal-fired power plants and other sources located in upwind states currently make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Philadelphia region to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and fine particulates.

Area residents will enjoy improved air quality and substantial health care savings as a result of CSAPR’s implementation. Exposure to high airborne concentrations of ozone and fine particulates are scientifically linked to widespread illnesses and premature deaths. In particular, more than one in five children in Philadelphia suffer from asthma, a respiratory disease that is aggravated by Ozone and Fine Particulate pollution.

Nitrogen oxides, fine particulate, and sulfur dioxide emissions in Pennsylvania will fall by 11, 54, and 75 percent respectively in 2014 with the timely implementation of CSAPR. The airborne concentration of fine particulates in Philadelphia alone is projected to drop by 9 percent over the same period. EPA has calculated that the improvement in air quality attributable to CSAPR will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma nationwide every year. It is estimated that Pennsylvania’s share of these national health benefits will be worth billions of dollars annually.

City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith said, “By reducing the amount of air pollutants transported from other states into ours, EPA’s rule will deliver substantial health and economic benefits to the people of Philadelphia and the region.”

“CSAPR will ensure the air we breathe is cleaner, which means less illness and lower health care costs,” said Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz.

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