EPA's Finalization of "Good Neighbor" Plan will reduce transport of harmful air pollution to Connecticut
BOSTON (March 30, 2023) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement of the final Good Neighbor Plan, a rule that will significantly cut smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution from power plants and other industrial facilities in 23 states, will improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities, including Connecticut.
The Clean Air Act directs EPA to issue a federal plan to address pollution that significantly contributes to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, or smog, formed in part from nitrogen oxide emissions traveling beyond certain states' boundaries.
Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause respiratory issues, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and lead to missed days of work or school, emergency room visits, and premature deaths. These costly public health impacts can be especially harmful to children and older adults, disproportionately affecting people of color, families with low-incomes, and other vulnerable populations.
Southern Conn. experiences the highest ground-level ozone levels in the eastern half of the U.S. The ozone recorded at air quality monitors in Southwest Conn. comes almost entirely (90-95%) from out of state. Connecticut cannot reach attainment with EPA's ozone air-quality standard without upwind emission reductions from sources in States south and west of Connecticut.
"Air pollution doesn't stop at the Connecticut state line," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "EPA's 'Good Neighbor' plan will help our state partners meet stronger air quality health standards within and beyond their borders, saving lives and improving public health in impacted communities across the United States. This is especially important in communities that have been overburdened by pollution for decades." As part of this rule, EPA looked at power plants (also called Electric Generating Units or EGUs) to identify emission reductions that could be achieved to help mitigate the impact of ozone transport. The agency found that many EGUs in contributing upwind states that have NOX controls are not operating them efficiently, particularly on high ozone days. The Good Neighbor Plan will ensure that these controls operate effectively when emissions reductions are most needed. The final rule's 2027 budget for power plants reflects a 50% reduction from 2021 ozone-season NOx emissions levels.
In addition to EGUs, for the first time in a transport rule contributing states will be required to put further controls on emissions from industrial sectors (non-EGUs). These sectors include reciprocating internal combustion engines in pipeline transportation of natural gas; cement manufacturing; boilers and furnaces in iron and steel mills; furnaces in glass manufacturing; municipal waste combustors; and large boilers in chemical, oil, metal ore mining, and pulp and paper industries. These standards will collectively reduce NOx emissions by about 15% from 2019 ozone-season emissions.
Together, EGU and non-EGU measures will reduce ozone-forming NOX emissions from the 23 significantly contributing upwind states by about 70,000 tons during the 2026 ozone season (May 1 – Sept 30) compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Emissions from 11 of the 23 states were found to adversely affect air quality in southern CT and NYC.
The costs to powerplants and industries associated with implementing the Good Neighbor Plan will be more than offset by the public-health benefits for residents of downwind states, especially southern CT, and the NYC metropolitan area. By 2026, the net benefits of this final rule – after accounting for the costs of compliance – are about $3.7 billion and could be greater.
"I commend the EPA for issuing its final Good Neighbor Plan, and for recognizing the significant impact emissions from upwind states have on their downwind neighbors like Connecticut," Governor Ned Lamont said. "Good neighbors look out for each other, and through this plan the federal EPA will hold upwind states accountable by requiring reductions in air pollution from their power plants and other industrial sources that harm Connecticut. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air and Connecticut has led the country on innovative approaches to reducing our own emissions. The State of Connecticut will continue to support the Biden Administration as it implements federal policies that will positively impact health outcomes here in Connecticut and nationwide."
"The purpose of this plan is to stop pollution from coming across our border, so other states will be truly good neighbors. Connecticut's air quality should not be degraded by coal burning power plants and other industries located hundreds of miles away," said U.S. Senator Blumenthal. "The EPA's 'Good Neighbor' plan will set strong standards for states to reduce smog-causing pollutants. Thanks to the Clean Air Act, this initiative will curb emissions and improve public health in states like Connecticut most vulnerable to downwind pollution."
"Improving the air-quality for Connecticut's families is crucial," said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro. "I am proud to see EPA's Good Neighbor Plan direct initiatives to cut smog and address air pollution across our communities. This is about improving the air we breathe. Because of the initiatives of the Clean Air Act, we will be able to help institute stronger air quality standards to ultimately better public health and save lives."
"We passed the Inflation Reduction Act in Congress to incentivize clean energy and support efforts in Connecticut and nationwide to reduce harmful emissions," said U.S. Representative John B. Larson. "The Good Neighbor Plan will ensure states work together to reduce air pollution both within and outside their borders. I commend the Biden Administration for taking this step to both improve public health and put us on a path to cut ozone emissions in half by 2027."
"Air pollution and smog that travels across state borders into Connecticut puts vulnerable groups like our senior citizens and infants at risk, aggravates asthma and other chronic lung diseases, and has serious implications for the health and wellbeing of my constituents," said U.S. Representative Jim Himes. "I'm glad to see the EPA implementing stricter requirements for air quality in nearby states so that Connecticut residents will no longer be forced to bear the brunt of emissions from polluters operating beyond our state's borders."
"We must leverage every opportunity to work together to achieve better health outcomes and protect our environment. No state can act alone, which is why this final rule is critically important, said U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes. "While Connecticut has taken many steps to promote clean air solutions, we need the investment of our neighboring states to act with us. This collaborative effort will address harmful pollution that threatens the lives of our constituents and puts them at higher risk for asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Every person deserves to breathe clean air, and with the efforts of the Biden Administration, we are charting a path to make that a reality."
"The EPA's Good Neighbor Plan is a positive step forward in addressing the impact of interstate air pollution," Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. "The collective impact of this plan is significant nationwide, and Connecticut will continue to push for state and federal action to bring our state's air quality into compliance. We've worked hard in Connecticut to improve our air quality through decarbonizing our grid, our buildings, and our transportation sector, and that critically important work will continue. We urge EPA to do the same and adopt further controls on all contributing source sectors within the purview of federal regulation, including on-road, non-road, and other stationary sources."
In 2026 alone, EPA projects that the final rule will result in significant public health benefits:
- preventing approximately 1,300 premature deaths,
- avoiding more than 2,300 hospital and emergency room visits,
- cutting asthma symptoms by 1.3 million cases,
- avoiding 430,000 school absence days,
- avoiding 25,000 lost workdays.
Beginning in the 2023 ozone season, power plants in 22 states will participate in a revised and strengthened Cross-State Air Pollution Rule ozone season trading program. To achieve emissions reductions as soon as possible, EPA is basing the initial control stringency on the level of reductions achievable through immediately available measures, including consistently operating emissions controls already installed at power plants. Further reductions will be phased in over several years starting in 2024 and reflect emissions levels that could be achieved through installation of new emissions controls.
This final rule implements the Clean Air Act's "Good Neighbor" or "interstate transport" provision, which requires each state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that ensures sources within the state do not contribute significantly to nonattainment or interfere with maintenance of the NAAQS in other states.