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EPA to power plants: Clean up your act | Business

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EPA to power plants: Clean up your act
EPA to power plants: Clean up your act

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency is clamping down on power plant pollution in 27 states, including Arkansas, that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced on Thursday a plan to reduce smokestack pollution causing smog and soot in downwind states - where it combines with local air contaminants, making it impossible for those states to meet air quality standards on their own.

The rule differs from one proposed by the Obama administration in July. Power plants in the District of Columbia and five states - Delaware, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana and Massachusetts - will no longer have to control year-round emissions of two pollutants - sulfur dioxide, responsible for acid rain and soot, and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to both smog and soot.

Texas, by contrast, will have to reduce more pollution than in the initial proposal, which required the state's power plants only to address summertime smog-forming pollution.

In a conference call with reporters, the EPA chief said the regulation would make sure no community has to bear the burden of polluters in another state. She said just because pollution drifts far from a power plant "doesn't mean pollution is no longer that plant's responsibility."

"Pollution that crosses state lines places a greater burden on (downwind) states and makes them responsible for cleaning up someone else's mess," Jackson said

In addition, the EPA proposed requiring power plants in Oklahoma and five other states to control nitrogen oxide emissions during the summer smog season. If that proposal becomes final, power plants in 28 states will be covered by the regulation.

Jackson said the changes were based on the latest air quality data.

Critics called it another step by the Obama administration to crack down on coal-fired power plants. The regulation is one of several expected from the EPA that would target pollution from the nation's 594 coal-fired power plants, which provide nearly half of the country's electricity - but also a significant share of its pollution.

While the EPA says the suite of regulations will not cause the power to go out, almost everyone agrees that it will help close down some of the oldest, and dirtiest, coal-fired facilities. At the remaining plants, operators would have to use existing pollution controls more frequently, use lower-sulfur coal, or install additional equipment.

(Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved.)