Arizona won’t meet clean air standards if other states aren’t ‘good neighbors’ – Cronkite News

Karen Peters, director of the Arizona Department of Environment, said the EPA’s proposed “good neighbors plan” — to protect states downwind from pollution drifting in from elsewhere — is “critical” to Arizona’s ability to meet standards for to meet clean air. (Photo by Alexis Waiss/Cronkite News)

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., questioned Arizona Department of Environment Director Karen Peters about the pollution problem in Yuma, which itself generates very little air pollution but is affected by smog blowing from other jurisdictions. (Photo by Alexis Waiss/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON — Arizona is doing everything it can to improve air quality but will not meet federal standards while pollution from other jurisdictions is allowed to push beyond its borders, the director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality testified Wednesday.

Karen Peters said the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Good Neighbor Plan” to limit emissions in states whose pollution impacts leeward states is “critical” to address pollution in leeward states like Arizona. She pointed to areas like Yuma, which themselves produce very little smog but still don’t meet clean air requirements.

“Yuma is severely impacted by ozone transport from California and Mexico,” Peters told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “There is virtually nothing that can be done in terms of local emission reductions to reduce ozone pollution in the Yuma NDR.”

Ditto for the Phoenix-Mesa area, where Peters said there are “very few, if any, remaining emission reductions available” to help the region meet clean air standards.

But critics at the hearing called the plan an expensive and cumbersome attempt to impose federal policy on states, saying it would force businesses and power plants to shut down in what one witness described as “kind of shooting yourself in the foot.”

“It threatens US manufacturing, including the US forest products industry,” said Paul Noe, vice president of public policy at the American Forest and Paper Association. “Ultimately, this is a threat to American workers — men and women in high-paying, high-skill manufacturing jobs, both rural and urban, in red states and blue states.”

The shaded states would be subject to the EPA’s Good Neighbor Plan, and the arrows show the transmission of pollution between these and other states. (Map courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency)

The Good Neighbor Plan calls for a significant reduction in ozone-forming emissions from power plants and industrial plants in 23 states, whose bad air is carried to other states. In addition to power plants powered by fossil fuels, it would also apply to plants producing iron, steel, cement, paper, glass, petroleum and coal products, natural gas transmission and metal ore mining.

Most of the states affected by the plan would be subject to both power plant and industry curbs, but California would only be subject to industrial emissions curbs, while Alabama, Minnesota and Wisconsin would only have to curb power plants.

Arizona isn’t currently one of the states that would be subject to the rule, but an EPA spokesman said Wednesday that “further analysis is needed” on whether they apply to the state.

dr David Hill, a board member of the American Lung Association, fought back critics who cited the economic costs of the new regulation, claiming that by reducing the health burden it could actually stimulate more economic activity.

“The EPA has projected that it will prevent premature deaths, avoid hospitalizations, reduce asthma exacerbations,” Hill testified.

“School absenteeism will drop by over 400,000 and when children miss school, parents miss work. Over 25,000 lost workdays are avoided,” he said. “So the introduction of the rule will bring significant health and economic benefits.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., acknowledged concerns about the cost of the plan but said the health benefits would outweigh it. The challenge for the legislature is “to find this optimal point, because the risk factors for our population and the cost factors for our population indicate that the federal government is not living up to its responsibility today”.

related story

But Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said she worries the rule would force power plants to close and remove more than 14,000 megawatts of power generation from the system, “crippling” affordable power for the nation.

“The early forced closure of coal plants in this country is a threat to American energy security and grid reliability,” Lummis said. “For that reason alone — not to mention the 90,000 direct coal mining jobs in 26 states, including Arizona, Oregon and Pennsylvania, to name a few — this administration needs to reverse course.”

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., countered with an economic case for the plan, citing Yuma County, which borders California to the west and Mexico to the south. The county, which has fewer than 100,000 residents, could face severe economic constraints if its neighbors aren’t blamed for the pollution they cause in the county, he said.

“Because the area exceeds EPA ozone standards, there are limits to the region’s economic growth,” Kelly said. Of the pollution in Yuma, “10% comes from somewhere in Arizona, but basically nothing comes from Yuma County.”

Peters said about 40% of the ozone in the Phoenix area was generated within the state, but the rest comes from other sources, either natural background sources or other states or even countries.

Kelly was unable to answer Lummis’ question about how much pollution Chinese production could cause. But he said he wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, citing his experience as an astronaut when he said he could see sand and smog drifting across country’s borders.

Peters said there are things that can be done to reduce local pollution, but many of those things do not fall within the state’s jurisdiction, a situation she finds “frustrating”. Though Maricopa County doesn’t meet ozone standards, Peters said the state has made some strides in improving air quality.

“Ozone emissions have been declining in the Maricopa area over the past 20 years,” Peters said after the hearing. “But you know, time is not on our side. We need to do more sooner.”


Leave a Comment