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EPA tightens emissions restrictions on power plants, factories by imposing 50% smog reduction rule that it claims will save ‘thousands of lives’

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new “Good Neighbor Plan” rule on Wednesday that tightens emissions restrictions on power plants and other industrial facilities located primarily in the Midwest.

The strict measures, which apply to 23 states, will require factories to reduce “smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution.” The EPA claimed the restrictions would improve air quality and save lives by reducing emissions from upwind states that cause downwind smog.

Power plants and other facilities will be expected to reach a 50% reduction in their nitrogen oxide emissions from 2021 to 2027. The restrictions will go into effect in May.

“The final rule will improve air quality for millions of people living in downwind communities, saving thousands of lives, keeping people out of the hospital, preventing asthma attacks, and reducing sick days,” the EPA said in a press release published Wednesday.

According to the EPA, “unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone” can have multiple negative public health impacts, particularly on children and older adults. It can cause “respiratory issues, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and lead to missed days of work or school, emergency room visits, and premature deaths.”

It stated that the downwind pollution is “disproportionately affecting people of color, families with low-incomes, and other vulnerable populations.”

“Every community deserves fresh air to breathe. EPA’s ‘Good Neighbor’ plan will lock in significant pollution reductions to ensure cleaner air and deliver public health protections for those who’ve suffered far too long from air-quality related impacts and illness,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We know air pollution doesn’t stop at the state line. Today’s action will help our state partners meet stronger air quality health standards beyond borders, saving lives and improving public health in impacted communities across the United States.”

The EPA estimated that the rule would prevent approximately 1,300 premature deaths, reduce asthma symptoms by 1.3 million cases, and avoid 430,000 school absence days, 25,000 lost work days, and 2,300 hospital visits.

It also predicted that the finalized rule would generate $13 billion in annual net benefits from 2023 to 2042. The EPA calculated that, over that same period, the cost of accomplishing the reductions would be approximately $910 million annually.

Conor Bernstein, vice president of the National Mining Association, criticized the new rule and accused the Biden administration of attempting to force the nationwide closure of coal-fired power plants, KLCC reported.

“With each rule that targets well-operating coal plants – the very same plants that are called on to keep the lights on when renewables or natural gas are unavailable and consumer demand soars – our electricity grid becomes increasingly vulnerable to crippling supply shortfalls,” Bernstein said.

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