In my previous post on the CAIR decision, I discussed the environmental and practical ramifications of the Court’s decision vacating the program. While speaking at a large permitting seminar for manufacturer’s, I had a chance to discuss the conclusions of my prior post with some State officials. While I was correct that the CAIR decision complicates the State pollution control plans for ozone and soot, the environmental consequences discussed in my prior post need to be adjusted to account for additional factors.
It is unclear how U.S. EPA will treat State air pollution control plans (SIPs) that rely on CAIR. However, in the short term, not all the CAIR controls will be scuttled or switched off. AEP and First Energy have entered into major settlements with U.S. EPA stemming from New Source Review (NSR) violations.
These settlements require installation and operation of billions of dollars in new air pollution controls on power plants in Ohio. The consent orders will act as a backstop now that CAIR is gone. Perhaps some additional state actions will be needed to put additional backstops in place where no federal decree covers the plant. In summary, it appears the Ohio may have the tools to deal with the short term issues presented by the absence of CAIR for sources within the State.
The longer term consequences still remain and by 2015 will be felt if Congress does not act by replacing CAIR quickly. CAIR was designed to drive a second wave of major reductions that will be very difficult to replace without some new federal program. This second wave of reductions are essential for state’s trying to meet the tougher ozone standard (.075 ppm) and soot standard (fine particle- pm 2.5). If State’s fail to meet either the ozone or soot standards, then existing businesses will likely be squeezed for additional air pollution reductions. Also, economic development is more difficult in areas not attaining federal air quality standards.
Another consequence of the absence of a CAIR like program will be a lot more litigation between the states. It won’t just be North Carolina or the East Coast suing upwind sources. Even Ohio may be suing its neighbors like Indiana to try and force additional reductions.
Why? Ozone is truly a regional issue. Even City’s that some may think have no one to blame for their air pollution, such as Cleveland, in fact receive a substantial contribution from upwind sources. Take a look at the figures to the left. They demonstrate how both ozone and P.M 2.5 are regional issues. The majority of pollution in these major cities is from regional not local sources.
All this points to the need for Congressional action to replace CAIR to avoid a serious and costly problem for the State’s and businesses. Unfortunately, any action is very unlikely until we have a new President.