EPA’s Whitman proposes new date on ozone rules

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Jan. 21, 2002 — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has notified Congress the agency is proposing enforcing ozone transport rules May 31, 2004.

Whitman said after a delay resulting from court challenges, the Section 126 Rule and the nitrogen oxides state implementation plan call (NOx SIP call), are expected to become effective then. She said the action would once again harmonize the compliance deadlines for these two rules.

In the NOx SIP call, EPA determined emissions from 22 states and the District of Columbia contributed to ozone pollution problems downwind under the Clean Air Act and required each jurisdiction to submit a plan to cut emissions to a specified level. Responding to a Section 126 complaint by four Northeast states that it was taking too long, the agency ordered utilities in 12 Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast states and the District of Columbia to reduce emissions.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August temporarily suspended the compliance date for electrical generating units subject to the Section 126 Rule, until EPA satisfied questions about how it arrived at growth rates for seasonal heat input from utilities. EPA said it believed it could satisfy the court’s concern with a “more robust” explanation of its calculations.

While EPA intends to respond “quickly” to the court’s concerns, Whitman said the court action will effectively delay the compliance date for utilities beyond the 2003 ozone season. Although May 1 is the beginning of the ozone season, Whitman said EPA intends to establish May 31, 2004, as the compliance date for utilities in order to align that date with the deadline established by the DC Circuit for the NOx SIP call.

She said EPA strongly supports addressing ozone transport through state action and always intended for the Section 126 Rule to serve as a backstop to the NOx SIP call. “We believe it makes sense to continue this approach because it helps provide states, affected industry, and the public with a better coordinated and simpler program for achieving these emissions reductions,” Whitman said in her letter.

“We intend to formally establish the new May 31, 2004 compliance dates for [electric utilities] and [independent generators] when we respond to the growth factor remand,” she said. “At that time, we will also adjust the permit application date and monitoring date to be consistent with the new compliance date.”

EPA’s goal is to establish a cost-effective emission control program, Whitman said, which means trading among all sources. If the controls for independent generators were put in place a year earlier than those for utilities, they would have less compliance flexibility because there would be fewer trading partners available, she said.

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