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Why The TRAIN Act's Fig Leaf is Inadequate to Protect Americans From Power Plant Air Pollution

John Walke

Posted September 23, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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The TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401) repeals the more protective smog and soot limits in the EPA's “Cross State Air Pollution Rule” and blocks adoption of the mercury and air toxics standards, both for power plants. These attacks would result in up to 33,450 premature deaths, thousands of heart attacks and many tens of thousands of asthma attacks. The legislation does maintain, however, the Bush EPA “Clean Air Interstate Rule” (CAIR) that was overturned [pdf] in court in 2008.

TRAIN Act supporters claim this is enough to protect Americans from power plant air pollution.

They are wrong.

First, CAIR does not create emission limits for mercury, arsenic, lead, dioxins, acid gases or the approximately eighty hazardous air pollutants emitted by power plants; EPA projects that reducing these toxic air pollutants from power plants will save up to 17,000 lives once implemented.

Second, CAIR allows one hundred thousand more tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution than the newer cross-state rule, and two hundred thousand more tons of soot-laden sulfur dioxide pollution.

Third, the newer cross-state rule will save 8,300 more lives per year than CAIR, and avoid many more heart attacks, asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and lost days of school and work.

Fourth, in 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned [pdf] CAIR. The court directed EPA to re-examine CAIR because it had “fatal flaws” [pdf] in its methodology to measure states’ contributions to air pollution and did not ensure that each state was meeting its goals because of its trading rules. EPA adopted CSAPR to respond to the court's concern that downwind communities were not adequately protected due to the unfettered emissions trading allowed by CAIR. EPA also updated its methodology to respond to the court’s order.

Accordingly, the newer cross-state rule is better crafted to ensure that no downwind communities will suffer from power plant air pollution travelling from out of state. State clean air officials will not have to seek emissions reductions from local businesses as much as they would have to under CAIR, because out of state power plants are reducing more of their fair share of pollution under the newer cross-state rule.

We urge you to call your Representative and urge them to vote “NO” on H.R. 2401 – and the equally dangerous Whitfield and Latta amendments – and block this reckless attack on clean air protections for all Americans.

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