AIR POLLUTION:

EPA chief promises 'clear road map' for utilities

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today vowed to give electric utilities and their state overseers regulatory certainty with a host of forthcoming environmental rules.

Speaking at a conference of state utility regulators today, Jackson outlined a series of pending regulations that will significantly affect utilities, including rules aimed at curbing soot, smog and mercury.

"I believe that we can do it smartly, that we will do it in partnership and that we will do it in a way that gives a clear road map for investors and for regulators and for ratepayers," Jackson said.

EPA will propose a replacement for the Clean Air Interstate Rule in April, Jackson said, to address pollution that crosses state lines.

President George W. Bush's cap-and-trade program was designed to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the eastern United States. But CAIR was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2008. The court temporarily reinstated the rule in December 2008 to give EPA time to craft a replacement. Members of the Senate, meanwhile, are pushing a legislative fix for the CAIR rule (E&ENews PM, Feb. 4).

"Later this year, we'll propose a new utility MACT standard," Jackson added. EPA is facing a court deadline to require plant-specific maximum achievable control technology for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants at power plants by November 2011 (Greenwire, Oct. 23, 2009).

"Working together, we'll set a strong foundation for achieving the reductions that a new MACT and new CAIR rules will require," Jackson said.

Jackson said that although challenges and disagreements will arise during the development of new standards, "the benefits of us getting this right are absolutely unprecedented."