Annual Progress Report, 2013
Clearing the Haze in the Southwest
The magnificent vistas of the Southwest are often obscured by air pollution – but new requirements and technologies are helping to restore their grandeur.
In November 2012 and January 2013, EPA took action to clear the haze from four coal-burning power plants in Arizona, benefiting residents of Arizona, the Navajo Nation, and more than 11 million visitors to 24 national parks and wilderness areas each year, including the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park and the Petrified Forest.
Air pollution from these power plants has reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon and other parks in the region for more than 40 years. Ninety percent of the time, the Grand Canyon's air is impaired by pollution.
In the first action, EPA approved Arizona's air quality plan to control sulfur dioxide and particulate matter from three power plants in eastern Arizona – Cholla Power Plant, Apache Generating Station, and Coronado Generating Station. In addition, EPA approved a federal plan to reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by a total of 22,700 tons per year at these three facilities.
In January 2013, EPA proposed air pollution limits for Navajo Generating Station (NGS – see photo above), one of the largest sources of NOx emissions in the country. The 2,250-megawatt power plant is on the Navajo Nation, less than 20 miles from the Grand Canyon.
EPA's proposal would reduce NOx emissions from NGS by 84%. It will also help protect public health, since NOx reacts with other chemicals to form ozone and fine particles, which aggravate asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
The proposal is the result of extensive federal engagement with local tribes, the Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project, the agricultural community and other stakeholders regarding impacts on power and water costs. EPA has considered more than 6,700 comments on NGS since 2009 and will be holding public hearings to collect additional input on the proposal.
The emission limit can be achieved by installing an effective, available technology – Selective Catalytic Reduction. In combination with low-NOx burners the facility voluntarily installed between 2009 and 2011, the proposal would reduce emissions by 28,500 tons per year by 2018.
Fighting Mobile-Source Pollution
National emissions standards for vehicles and small engines have given us healthier air to breathe. In the Pacific Southwest, EPA is targeting those who profit by defying the rules.
A Utah-based company paid a $500,000 penalty for making and selling more than 9,000 electronic devices allowing owners of diesel pickup trucks to disable their particulate matter (PM) filters. These filters remove about 90% of the PM from a truck's exhaust. Without them, trucks spew dark black smoke.
Diesel particulates are associated with lung and heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and a higher risk of lung cancer. Edge Products LLC's devices caused an estimated 158 tons of excess PM emissions – equivalent to 422 new long-haul semi trucks operating for 29 years.
Under Edge's settlement with EPA, the company must offer to buy back the devices and spend at least $157,600 to offset the excess emissions. Edge plans to do this by offering rebates to owners of old wood-burning stoves who replace them with new, cleaner-burning stoves.
Two Southern California companies paid penalties totaling $140,000 for importing generators, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) through the Port of Long Beach without required emission controls.
All Power America LLC paid $60,000 and Maxtrade LLC paid $80,000. The companies must also export the generators, ATVs and dirt bikes out of the country.
EPA inspectors found that All Power imported 80 generators without the required catalytic converters. Maxtrade imported 2,481 off-highway motorcycles and ATVs with improper carburetors and catalytic converters.
Equipment or vehicles without proper emission controls emit excess amounts of smog-forming gases, adding to harmful ozone pollution. The Clean Air Act bans importation or sale of new engines or vehicles unless they are EPA-certified to meet federal emission standards.
Focus on the San Joaquin Valley
Mountains surrounding the San Joaquin Valley trap air pollution, creating some of the worst air quality in America. EPA, state regulators and local partners are collaborating on solutions.
Fine particulate matter – known as PM2.5 – causes a wide range of health problems, from asthma to premature death. EPA supports California's efforts to reduce PM2.5 levels in the valley through regulatory action, clean-vehicle programs and effective enforcement. The state's goal is to attain the national annual and daily PM2.5 health standards by 2015 and more stringent standards by 2019.
In 2012, EPA continued its work with the California Air Resources Board, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition on measures to reduce PM2.5. In December, the air district adopted a plan with new restrictions on wood burning and other sources. EPA will also be working with the state, air district and communities to develop an updated plan to reduce ozone pollution (smog), which is expected in 2015.
Enforcement cases cut emissions
EPA completed several Clean Air Act enforcement cases in 2012 that will result in substantial emission reductions in the valley. Three of the facilities – a Lodi bakery, a biomass electric power plant in Tracy, and the Manteca landfill – will pay a total of more than $4.5 million in penalties and measures to reduce air pollution. In addition, EPA has supported local groups in forming reporting networks to assist in identifying facilities that violate environmental and public health regulations (see Communities and Ecosystems - Focus on the San Joaquin Valley).
Grants fund research, cleaner trucks
EPA has provided $500,000, which will leverage an additional $3.4 million, for the valley air district's Technology Advancement Program, a competitive grant program to spur the deployment of innovative clean air technologies. A $1 million EPA grant funded a UC Berkeley/Stanford study on connections between children's asthma and prenatal and childhood exposure to air pollutants in the valley.
EPA has also provided $8 million to UC Davis' San Joaquin Valley Aerosol Health Effects Center to study the effects of chronic childhood exposures to particulate pollution. Results were published in 36 articles in scientific journals. In addition, EPA funding will result in replacement of at least 35 heavy-duty diesel waste-hauling trucks in the valley with new ones that reduce emissions by up to 97%.