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Press Briefing on SIP Call for Regional Ozone Reductions

09/24/1998
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Press Briefing on SIP Call for Regional Ozone Reductions
 
                       Washington, D.C.
                       September 24, 1998 
                               
                               
                               
     Welcome. And thank you all for coming.

     Today, we announce another historic step the Clinton Administration is taking to reduce pollution, clean the air, and protect the health of millions of Americans.

     Through today's action, 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia will reduce by 28 percent emissions of nitrogen oxides -- the main contributors to smog and unhealthy air in our nation's cities.

     By 2003, we anticipate that this action will cut 1.1 million tons of nitrogen oxide emissions each year in these states. It will help hundreds of areas meet EPA's standard for healthy air. It is the centerpiece of our efforts to help communities achieve the newly updated standard for smog announced by the President last year. And it affords maximum flexibility to states as we work toward these goals.

      As a result of this action, 138 million Americans living in the eastern U.S. will breathe cleaner air. Of these 138 million Americans, 31 million will -- for the first time -- breathe air that meets the nation's new public health standard for harmful levels of smog. Smog can aggravate bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. In certain circumstances, it can even cause premature death.

     This plan has real benefits for real people. And together -- with states, cities, businesses, and industry -- we will implement this plan in cost-effective, common-sense ways.

     This is the first effort by EPA and the states to reduce the regional transport of ozone -- the ozone that travels across state lines and contributes to smog problems in downwind areas.

     The regional transport of smog is a significant issue in the eastern half of the country, where a number of factors contribute to the problem -- dense population centers located in the same weather patterns, and a high concentration of sources that emit high levels of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.  

     Reducing emissions from these sources is absolutely essential to ensuring healthy air for many millions of Americans.

     For the first time ever, EPA has worked jointly with a group of midwestern, northeastern, and southern states to find ways to reduce transported ozone -- and to come up with a cost-effective, affordable strategy to get the job done.

     Based on this work, EPA is providing 22 states and the District of Columbia with the amount by which they must reduce state by state the nitrogen oxide emissions that are causing these high levels of regional smog. EPA has benefitted from thousands of hours of meetings with businesses, utilities, state and local officials, citizens, public health organizations, environmentalists, and other concerned groups. We took into account 700 sets of comments on the proposed action.

     We listened. And what we have achieved is truly historic, truly significant -- a protective, common sense, cost-effective, market-based, flexible, regional strategy that will protect millions of Americans.

     This strategy will achieve healthy air without additional, more costly controls on small businesses.

     It makes sense because it's a regional approach, giving states tremendous flexibility to achieve reductions where they see fit. While we do not tell states how to achieve targets, our plan does demonstrate that the most cost-effective way to reduce these emissions is to focus on the largest, least controlled sources -- primarily major utility plants.

     Large, fossil fuel-burning utility plants are a major source of the nitrogen oxide emissions that we must reduce.  By focusing efforts on them, we can get the greatest amount of reductions for the lowest cost.

     Our analysis shows that the necessary reductions can be achieved for $1,500 per ton, as opposed to between $2,000 and $10,000 per ton for other controls.

     The plan harnesses the power of the marketplace to achieve real reductions. Using our successful trading program for sulfur dioxide as a model, we have included a market-based program where facilities can trade pollution credits for nitrogen oxides emissions -- another way we provide flexibility, reduce cost, and create incentives to reduce these smog-causing emissions.

    This plan is workable.  Its goals are achievable.   And it will ensure that millions of Americans breathe air that meets public health standards.

     Let me commend the states for working with each other, and with EPA, to develop this innovative, unprecedented regional approach to reducing air pollution and improving public health in our country.    

     Thank you, and now to your questions.