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EPA Plan Will Reduce Pollution and Improve Visibility in Texas, Oklahoma
Release Date: 11/24/2014
Contact Information: Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard at R6Press@epa.gov or 214 665-2200
DALLAS – (Nov. 24, 2014) Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed action to reduce harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to improve visibility at some of Texas' and Oklahoma's most treasured parks and wilderness areas. After a thorough review, EPA has proposed to partially approve and partially disapprove the state of Texas’ regional haze plan intended to meet federal Clean Air Act requirements for improving visibility and reducing haze in the nation’s national parks and wilderness areas. EPA is proposing to approve the part of Texas’ plan as meeting the Clean Air Act requirement that shows certain older, industrial sources meet existing requirements for best-available retrofit technology to reduce harmful emissions.
Because parts of Texas’ plan did not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements, EPA has proposed to disapprove parts of the state’s plan for reducing haze pollution from specific electricity generating plants in Texas. These sources are contributing to haze conditions in Texas’ Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks and also to Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. EPA’s proposal requires cost-effective controls, consistent with treatment used at power plants across the country, that will improve visibility in all of those areas, and prevent uncontrolled pollution emitted from Texas' plants from drifting to Oklahoma and affecting visibility there, as required by the Clean Air Act. The federal plan would be effective until the state replaces it with an approvable state plan.
Under EPA’s proposed plan, 15 units at 8 coal-fired electricity generating facilities in Texas will be required to reduce SO2 as part of the national long-term strategy for improving visibility. These pollution controls will be very much like those already in place for almost all similar power plants in other states.
The proposal would cut about 230,000 tons of SO2 emissions per year, which will better protect the parks and the refuge from hazy conditions, while also providing health and environmental benefits. In addition to forming haze and impairing visibility, SO2 can harm people’s health and the environment. SO2 reacts with other compounds in the air to form fine particles. Studies show that fine particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs, where they can worsen respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease. Airborne fine particles are linked to increased hospital admissions, missed days of work or school, and premature death. When deposited on land and in estuaries, lakes and streams, SO2 can also acidify sensitive ecosystems resulting in a range of harmful effects on plants, soils, water quality, and fish and wildlife.
No facilities in Oklahoma will be affected by today's action. Oklahoma has already committed to haze-preventing pollution controls at three electricity generating plants and submitted an approvable state plan to partially replace the EPA’s federal plan in that state.
After being published in the Federal Register, the proposed plan will be open to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will also hold a public hearing in Austin on January 13, 2015, and one in Oklahoma City on January 15, 2013.
The plans are available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/newsevents/index.html
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Activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.htm
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