NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Plans to Control Three Pollutants

December 17, 2003

President Bush's "Clear Skies" initiative to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide was blocked in the Senate. However, new Environmental Protection Agency chief Mike Leavitt is proposing to implement the program in 300 counties in the East that are in noncompliance with federal air standards. He has also proposed regulation of mercury emissions from power plants.

Under the Clear Skies plan:

  • Utilities will have to cut their sulfur dioxide emissions (which cause soot) by six million tons, or 70 percent from current levels, by 2015.
  • Power plants will also have to lower nitrogen oxide emissions (which cause smog) by 1.7 million tons, or 50 percent over the same period.
  • And under a separate regulation, mercury emissions would be reduced from 48 tons to 15 tons by 2018.
  • While the government sets an ever-lower "cap" on how much mercury plants can emit, companies are allowed to choose how they reach those goals.
  • Moreover, plants that come in below the cap are allowed to sell their "credits" to plants that overrun the cap.

Much of the equipment that plants will use to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide will also lower mercury. Unlike prescriptive "command and control" regulations, says the Wall Street Journal, the cap-and-trade system would allow utilities to develop the most cost-effective technologies, rather than requiring all plants to adopt one particular technology.

Source: Editorial, "Mercury Falling," Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2003.

For WSJ text (requires subscription),,SB107161321540361300,00.html


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