EPA issues air pollution rules for Eastern states

With the Clear Skies bill dead in committee, the Bush administration is going ahead with its plan to implement provisions of the bill as regulation. Yesterday saw the first step, as the U.S. EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which will substantially curtail emissions of soot-causing and smog-forming emissions, primarily generated by power plants, in 28 Eastern states and Washington, D.C. By the time the regulations are fully implemented in 2015, the EPA expects them to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions by over 70 percent and nitrogen oxides by over 60 percent, which would mean preventing 17,000 premature deaths a year, millions of lost work and school days, and loads of hospital visits. The rule met with approval from both industry groups and enviros, though the former would prefer federal legislation and the latter would prefer larger cuts and tighter deadlines. EPA officials have calculated that the benefits of the rule, primarily in health-care savings, will outweigh the costs by some 25 to 1. Next week the agency is expected to take on mercury emissions — expect that fight to be considerably bloodier.