There’s both good news and bad news associated with the report that EPA released today, “Eastern Skies Continue Getting Cleaner.” (See below.)
The good news is that we are indeed seeing a reduction in smog-forming pollution from coal-fired power plants, and that is lowering smog in the East compared to what we would be breathing without these controls. (For those of you who haven’t been tracking these issues that long, these emission reductions have come about because of requirements set by President Clinton’s EPA. They were bitterly opposed by coal-fired electric power companies and some of the Midwestern states including Ohio and its neighbor, West Virginia.)
The bad news is that we still have a significant and widespread smog problem. And we will need to do more to make sure that people throughout the East can truly breathe easy.
Note that EPA cites alleged progress in 2005. But as Clean Air Watch has documented, smog problems actually got worse that year, in part because it didn’t rain as much as the previous year. (see http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2005/11/information-about-smog-problems-in.html )
Our Clean Air Watch Smog Survey for 2006 shows that the problems continue this year – underscoring the fact that we still need to do more.
EPA correctly notes that we ought to see some continued progress with its so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. However, please keep in mind that Northeastern states have pointed out that these requirements will not be adequate to curb smog problems throughout the Northeast.
In addition, EPA’s science advisers recently concluded that smog causes health problems at lower levels of exposure than the current standards, and that EPA should set tougher health standards.