10 October 2009

Think we have already treated our Smokestacks?

For those minority of folks who care about such things as coal fired power plant produced pollution, there is a perception among some that the Clean Air Act has regulated and thus cleaned up such pollutants as sulpher dioxide and mercury. But here is a snippet of a GAO report released this summer.

The 491 U.S. coal-fired power plants are the largest unregulated industrial source of mercury emissions nationwide, annually emitting about 48 tons of mercury--a toxic element that poses health threats, including neurological disorders in children. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that mercury emissions from these sources should be regulated, but the agency has not set a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard, as the Clean Air Act requires.
For the rest of the article click here.

More fun reading ~ from 1982:

GAO undertook a study to explore whether developing a market in air pollution entitlements is feasible.

Establishing a market in air pollution entitlements could be a less costly, more flexible way to meet minimum standards of air quality. These entitlements would allow emissions consistent with present standards governing air quality. Such a market could save the public millions of dollars relative to the present price of meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act. By using scarce economic resources more efficiently, more economic growth could be achieved without sacrificing the benefits of good air quality, and taxpayers would benefit from more efficient operations of regulatory agencies. Controlled trading gives firms considerable flexibility in choosing pollution abatement measures. A full-scale market in air pollution entitlements could develop from a workable system of controlled trading. The Environmental Protection Agency's controlled trading approach allows: (1) a variation in pollution controls among individual existing sources of pollution within a single industrial plant; (2) construction of major new industrial plants in areas which do not presently comply with the air quality mandates of the Act by obtaining emission reductions from owners of existing plants; and (3) the creation of a central facility to make emission reductions more readily available. Certain technological requirements of the Act limit controlled trading. In addition, delays and expense can arise in the permit process or firms might hoard, rather than trade, their entitlements. However, the obstacles to implementation do not appear to be insurmountable. For more info click here.

Here is another GAO report of the initial effects of the sulfur & nitrogen cap and trade program.

In 1990, Congress adopted a new regulatory approach to reduce acid rain, allowing electric utilities to trade allowances to emit sulfur dioxide, a major cause of acid rain. Utilities that reduce their emissions below their required levels can sell their extra allowances to other utilities to help them meet their requirements. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this flexible approach to curbing acid rain could reduce costs significantly because trading allowances can be less costly than other methods of controlling pollution. This report discusses the (1) extent to which trading is expected to cut sulfur dioxide emissions and compliance costs, and the status of the allowance trading market; (2) impediments to increased trading of allowances; and (3) implications of designing a similar approach to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
For more info click here.

These are important ~ why? Because we have been through this all before for SO2 and NO and we do not need to debate the wing nuts about the effect on the economy or if global warming is a problem. WE NEED ACTION.

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