Air Quality Rule Costly for Wisc. Families

Published April 1, 2007

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has unanimously approved regulations that will bring the state into compliance with the Bush administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). Compliance will cost the state’s residents more than $1 billion, or more than $500 per household, according to state officials.

Radical Emissions Cuts Required

CAIR requires states to submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory plans designed to reduce power plant nitrogen oxide emissions by 61 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions 57 percent by 2015.

The 7-0 vote by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board affirms proposed regulations submitted by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The new regulations allow power plants that have difficulty meeting their required emission cuts to purchase emission credits from power plants that cut emissions more than required by the new regulations. This cap-and-trade approach is designed to reduce the economic costs of meeting the new standards.

Environmental activist groups had called for more stringent reductions than those required under CAIR. They also sought to eliminate emissions trading, arguing that each and every power plant should make the 61 percent and 57 percent emissions reductions, regardless of the relative costs.

No Health Benefits

Joel Schwartz, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said CAIR is unnecessary and overly costly. Still more stringent requirements would do more harm than good, he said.

“EPA claims CAIR will prevent thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions each year by reducing particulate air pollution. But the particulates from power plants are in the form of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate, which are non-toxic even at levels many times greater than ever occur in the air we breathe,” Schwartz explained.

“CAIR would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic,” Schwartz observed. “The Bush administration implemented CAIR in order to look pro-environment, and in the process helped environmentalists promote fake power plant pollution health scares.”

Added Schwartz, “Environmentalists and the New York Times continue to pillory President Bush anyway, claiming he has gutted the Clean Air Act and increased power plant pollution. In the end, CAIR will impose tens of billions [of dollars] in costs on the American people, and all they’ll have to show for it are higher electricity bills.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.