Sept. 16, 2003 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its annual air trends report and also released new acid rain data, both of which show steady and significant air quality improvement.
This environmental progress comes even as the country has experienced a 164 percent increase in gross domestic product, a 42 percent increase in energy consumption and a 155 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled.
The report, “Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2002 Status and Trends,” shows that since 1970 emissions of the six principle air pollutants have been cut 48 percent. Acid rain data released at the same time demonstrates the cap and trade program’s success in reducing harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants.
According to the data, SO2 emissions from power plants were 10.2 million tons in 2002, nine percent lower than in 2000 and 41 percent lower than 1980. NOx emissions from power plants also continued a downward trend, measuring 4.5 million tons in 2002, a 13 percent reduction from 2000 and a 33 percent decline from 1990 emissions levels.
“President Bush is committed to continuing protection of the nation’s environment, and we will build on this good news,” said EPA’s Acting Administrator, Marianne Horinko, who highlighted the reports with the President at an event in Michigan today. “The President’s Clear Skies Act will continue the impressive progress reflected in the findings we are releasing today.”
The Clear Skies proposal is based on this same market-based cap and trade approach, widely acknowledged as a model air pollution control program because it provides significant and measurable environmental and human health benefits at low implementation costs.
EPA and the Administration have proposed, and are implementing, a number of initiatives to continue the trend in air quality improvement. The NOx SIP call, which will reduce summertime emissions of ozone-producing NOx by over 60 percent; the Clear Skies Act, which calls for a 70 percent reduction of SO2, NOx and mercury; and EPA’s proposed rule to cut emissions from non-road diesel engines, together will make significant progress in cleaning our nation’s air.
By 2020, 111 of 129 counties will meet national fine particle standards and 263 of 290 counties will attain national ozone standards. With these changes in place, a significant drop in ozone and PM levels will be seen within the next several years.
The annual Trends Report summarizes air quality information and facility emissions data for the six principal, or criteria, air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The report, based on monitoring at thousands of locations across the country, focuses primarily on national trends for the 20-year period between 1983-2002 and the 10-year period between 1993-2002.
The Acid Rain Program is well on the way to achieving its goal of a 50 percent reduction from 1980 SO2 emissions. Trading under the Acid Rain Program has created financial incentives for electricity generators to look for new and low-cost ways to reduce emissions, and improve the effectiveness of pollution control equipment, at costs much lower than predicted. The level of compliance under the Acid Rain Program continues to be uncommonly high, measuring over 99 percent.
Additional information about EPA’s Trends Report is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/airtrends.