The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hailed today’s decision by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to bolster the efforts of a group of more than 30 eastern states to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The decision was also supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Today’s White House action calls on both the states to complete work on a program to cut and cap NOx emissions in the East and the EPA to backstop that effort.
In addition to causing acid deposition on forests and streams and contributing to the deterioration of coastal aquatic ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay, the high levels of NOx emissions from utilities and factories transported across long distances throughout the East contribute significantly to the ozone smog that plagues urban areas in the region. Today’s White House move, confirming a proposal advanced last month by EPA and accepted by FERC is intended to address, at least in part, the environmental consequences of the “open access” rule recently promulgated by the FERC to increase wholesale competition in the electric utility industry.
“Despite the progress we’ve made, the air people breathe in hundreds of cities isn’t healthy enough to stop a dramatic rise in respiratory illnesses. The administration’s action is a real commitment to guarantee results and to do so in the most cost effective way. It will challenge states to work together cooperatively in a way that will help citizens and business,” said EDF executive director Fred Krupp.
“Today’s announcement adds a vital ingredient to the efforts of the Eastern states Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG) to end a critical air pollution problem. By reaffirming the White House’s support both for the OTAG process and for EPA’s ability to use its Clean Air Act authority as well, today’s CEQ decision provides crucial momentum in the fight to reduce the long-range transport of NOx emissions that prevent urban areas throughout the East from achieving healthful air quality,” said EDF senior attorney Joseph Goffman.
“This announcement represents a forceful commitment to seek the solution to a serious air pollution threat, and by focusing on a ‘cap and trade’ approach, CEQ is delivering on the administration’s promise to reinvent government and to use market-based strategies for environmental protection,” said Goffman. “Cap and trade programs provide the public with complete certainty that the intended emissions reductions will be achieved÷all while giving industry maximum flexibility to reduce costs for itself and for consumers.”
“By following the model of the highly successful acid rain emissions trading program established by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and creating cap-and-trade systems not just for NOx, but for the other pollutants caused by burning fossil fuels, the U.S. can reap the economic benefits of a competitively re-structured electric industry while achieving environmental protection and harnessing market forces to drive environmental innovation and improvement,” said EDF senior economist Daniel J. Dudek.