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Report Highlights Continued Success of Acid Rain Emissions Trading Program, Basis of Proposed Clear Skies Act

Release Date: 11/19/2002
Contact Information:

David Deegan 202-564-7839 /

(11/19/2002) Illustrating a dramatic victory for the environment and for public health, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman today announced the release of a report further documenting ongoing trends of significantly reduced emissions stemming from the Agency’s Acid Rain Program, the successful emissions trading program on which President Bush’s Clear Skies Act is modeled. The latest data available in the report confirm major reductions nationwide in two acid rain-causing emissions, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

“The Acid Rain Program has been an enormous success story in America’s efforts to ensure that emissions reductions go hand-in-hand with economic well being. This program has delivered cleaner air faster and with less expense than anybody anticipated,” said Whitman. “This is good news for everybody who cares about clean air and is further evidence that President Bush’s Clear Skies Act would deliver significant further reductions and environmental results. Cleaner air means fewer Americans will suffer from respiratory-related illnesses such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease.”

The Acid Rain Program, based on an innovative market-based cap and trade approach to achieving emissions reductions from the electric power industry, uses emission rate requirements to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and has set a permanent cap requiring a 50 percent reduction from 1980 emission levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 2010. The most recent data, available in the “Acid Rain Program 2001 Progress Report,” confirm that emission reductions of SO2 and NOx under the program have been significant. The Acid Rain Program, created as part of the 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act signed by President George H.W. Bush, set a goal of reducing annual SO2 emissions by 10 million tons below 1980 levels. To achieve these reductions, the law required a two-phase tightening of the restrictions placed on fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in 2001 were 10.6 million tons, a full one-third reduction from 1990 emissions, a five percent reduction from 2000 emissions and down from 17.3 million tons in 1980. Nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants also continued a downward trend of 4.1 million tons in 2001, a 25 percent decline from 1990 emissions levels and an eight percent reduction from 2000 emissions. These emissions reductions have contributed to measurable improvements in air quality, reductions in deposition and recovery of acid-sensitive waters. The trading component of the SO2 program has significantly lowered the costs of compliance and has not resulted in any significant geographic shifts in emissions.

The cap and trade model utilized in the Acid Rain Program has been so successful that it has served as the model for numerous subsequent efforts to significantly reduce air emissions, most notably President George W. Bush’s proposed Clear Skies Act. If enacted by Congress, the Clear Skies Act, once implemented, would reduce and cap emissions of SO2, NOx and mercury from power generation by an additional 70 percent beyond year 2000 emission levels. The Clear Skies Act is a simple, straightforward plan that would utilize the proven, effective cap and trade approach to improve air quality across the country. EPA’s “Acid Rain Program 2001 Progress Report” is available online at: along with extensive information on emissions data, allowance transfers, air quality data and atmospheric deposition data.