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New EPA Data Shows Dramatic Air Quality Improvements from Clear Skies Initiative

Release Date: 7/1/2002
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released new information demonstrating the dramatic clean air benefits of President Bush's Clear Skies initiative.  Clear Skies will require America's power plants to reduce air pollution by an average of 70 percent.  The new analytical data released today shows what effect that nationwide reduction will have on air quality, water quality, and public health in each region of the country.  The results are striking: every part of the country where power plants contribute significantly to air pollution -- most notably, the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest -- will see vast improvements in air quality.  Many cities and towns will meet air quality standards for the first time in years. Specifically for EPA's Region 6, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, Clear Skies, by 2020, is projected to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from power generators by 26 percent, nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 65 percent and mercury emissions by 49 percent over today's levels.

     On February 14 of this year President Bush announced the ambitious Clear Skies initiative, which sets strict, mandatory emissions caps for three of the most harmful air pollutants -- SO2, NOx, and mercury -- by setting mandatory emissions caps. Clear Skies will eliminate 35 million more tons of these pollutants in the next decade than the current Clean Air Act. EPA used sophisticated computer modeling techniques to specifically identify improvements in local and regional air and water quality that will occur as a result of the stringent caps imposed by the President's plan.

     "This information now clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the health and environmental benefits the President's Clear Skies proposal will deliver. Clear Skies will enable most of the country to meet national air quality standards. This new data shows that we can improve the quality of the air we breathe and achieve these results faster, at less cost to consumers, and in a way that makes sense for the environment, for industry, and for the health of the American people," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

     "The benefits that come from reducing air pollution will - without question - improve the lives and health of citizens throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas," said EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke.

     The annual health benefits of Clear Skies in Region 6 by 2020 include:

        -   approximately 800 fewer premature deaths,
        -   more than 500 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis,  
        -   more than 700 fewer hospitalizations/emergency room visits, and  
        -   approximately 18,000 fewer asthma attacks.

     It is estimated that Region 6 would see approximately $6 billion in benefits by 2020 from the reductions of fine particles alone.  Two counties (home to approximately 400,000 people) in Region 6 would come into attainment with the fine particle standard under Clear Skies by 2010 (beyond expectations from existing programs).  By 2020, 5 counties (home to approximately 2.5 million people) would come into attainment with the fine particle standard and one county (home to more than 200,000 people would come into attainment with the 8-hour ozone standard under Clear Skies (beyond expectations from existing programs).

     Clear Skies will cost effectively achieve emission reductions, and is not projected to significantly impact retail electricity prices in Region 6. Electricity prices are projected to remain below the national average.

     Clear Skies will increase the number of coal-fired power plants in Region 6 that have installed pollution controls to reduce emissions.  By 2010, 63 percent of Region 6's coal-fired generation will come from coal-units with emissions controls and by 2020, 84 percent of their coal-fired generation will come from units that have installed clean coal controls.

     Today's release of information marks the culmination of months of rigorous modeling and thorough analysis.  EPA has completed state of the art modeling of emissions, air quality, deposition and water quality based on the latest available data to project the effects of Clear Skies as accurately as possible.  Significantly, this information is available at a regional level as well as nationally, enabling a more clear assessment of the benefits of Clear Skies to human health and the environment in different parts of the country. EPA expects to release additional information, including information on mercury deposition, in the near future.

     The Clear Skies initiative builds upon other important provisions of the existing Clean Air Act, including those that protect public health by ensuring that local air quality standards are maintained. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards require State and Federal action to protect citizens from potential localized health problems (so-called "hot spots"). In the few areas of the country where reducing power plant emissions alone will not enable counties to meet national air quality standards, state and federal agencies will work together to reduce air pollution from other sources until air quality standards are met. The Clear Skies Initiative draws from the lessons learned from the 1990 Clean Air Act's Acid Rain Program to bring cleaner, healthier air to all Americans at an affordable price.

     More region-specific information on the Clear Skies Initiative is available on the EPA's Clear Skies web site at