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Emissions of Principal Pollutants Down in Southeast

Release Date: 09/28/2004
Contact Information: Carl Terry, (404) 562-8421,
The Acid Rain Program is credited as the major reason why emissions have declined faster and at a far lower cost than anticipated

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that total emissions of the six principal pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act dropped again in the Southeast in 2003, signaling that the Region’s air is the cleanest ever in three decades.   Annual emissions statistics for the six pollutants are considered major indicators of the quality of the nation’s air because of their importance for human health and the existence of their long-standing national standards.

In the Southeast (EPA Region 4), the aggregate total emissions reductions for the six pollutants,  Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Particulate Matter (PM), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Lead (Pb), since 1985 were 28 percent, from 51 million tons to 37 million tons.

A major reason for the progress is the innovative, market-based acid rain cap-and-trade program enacted in 1990.  The recently released Acid Rain Progress Report shows national annual SO2 and NOx emissions have declined 32 percent and 37 percent, respectively, since 1990.   In the Southeast, SO2 emissions have been reduced 29 percent since 1990 and NOx emissions have been reduced 37 percent since 1995.  The program generated double-digit cuts at its inception and is now maturing, with small fluctuations up and down as emissions gradually near their respective end goal caps.  In the Southeast, ambient SO2 concentrations have decreased by 40 percent and sulfate deposition has decreased by 30 percent.

EPA now is taking up the challenge to accelerate the pace of that progress into the future with the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR).  CAIR stands to be the acid rain program of this decade, enabling the country to once again enjoy sharp cuts in harmful pollutant levels.  It will use the same proven cap-and-trade approach as the Acid Rain Program, creating financial incentives for electricity generators to look for new and low-cost ways to reduce emissions early.

CAIR will use cap-and-trade to address power plant emissions in 29 eastern states plus the District of Columbia.  The program would cut SO2 by more than 40 percent from today’s levels by 2010, and 70 percent when fully implemented.  NOx emissions would be cut by 50 percent from today’s levels by 2010, and 60 percent when fully implemented.  CAIR will provide benefits that will ensure that our nation’s air continues to get cleaner well into the next decade. It is expected that CAIR will be finalized this fall. 

For more information:  CAIR: see 2003 Emissions Report: see and for the Acid Rain Report: see