PDF _ RL32755 - Air Quality: Multi-Pollutant Legislation in the 109th Congress
8-May-2006; Larry Parker and John Blodgett; 13 p.

Update: July 28, 2006

Previous Releases:

Abstract: With the prospect of new layers of complexity being added to air pollution controls, and with electricity restructuring putting a premium on economic efficiency, interest is being expressed in finding mechanisms to achieve health and environmental goals in simpler, more cost-effective ways. The electric utility industry is a major source of air pollution, particularly sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury (Hg), as well as suspected greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). At issue is whether a new approach to environmental protection could achieve the nation’s air quality goals more cost-effectively than the current system.

One approach being proposed is a “multi-pollutant” strategy — a framework based on a consistent set of emissions caps, implemented through emissions trading. Just how the proposed approach would fit with the current (and proposed) diverse regulatory regimes remains to be worked out; they might be replaced to the greatest extent feasible, or they might be overlaid by the framework of emissions caps.

In February 2002, the Bush Administration announced two air quality initiatives. The first, “Clear Skies,” would amend the Clean Air Act to place emission caps on electric utility emissions of SO2, NOx, and Hg. Implemented through a tradeable allowance program, the emissions caps would generally be imposed in two phases: 2008 and 2018. The second initiative begins a voluntary greenhouse gas reduction program. This plan, rather than capping CO2 emissions, focuses on improving the carbon efficiency of the economy, reducing current emissions of 183 metric tons per million dollars of GDP to 151 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2012.

In the 109th Congress, seven bills have been introduced that would impose multi-pollutant controls on utilities. Two of the bills, H.R. 227 and S. 131, are modified versions of the Administration’s three-pollutant proposal. The other five bills, S. 150, S. 730, S. 2724, H.R. 1451, and H.R. 1873, are four-pollutant proposals that include carbon dioxide. S. 150 is similar to a bill reported by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the 107th Congress. Likewise, H.R. 1451 is similar to H.R. 1256, introduced in the 107th Congress. H.R. 1873 and S. 2724 are revised versions of S. 843, introduced in the 108th Congress. All of these bills involve some form of emission caps, typically beginning in 2010; most include a tradeable credit program to implement that cap. The provisions concerning SO2, NOx, and Hg in S. 150, S. 730, S. 2724, H.R. 1451, and H.R. 1873 are generally more stringent and take full effect earlier than the comparable provisions of S. 131. S. 150, S. 730, S. 2724, H.R. 1451, and H.R. 1873 would cap utility emissions of CO2. It is difficult to compare those CO2 caps with the Administration’s proposal concerning CO2 — both because the Administration’s proposal is voluntary rather than mandatory and because it is broader (covering all greenhouse gas emissions rather than just utility CO2 emissions). However, it appears that actual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would be higher under the Administration’s proposal than those allowed by S. 150, S. 730, and H.R. 1451. This report will be updated as warranted.

 [read report]

Topics: Air, Legislative

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