WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed tighter controls for dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions, winning the support of Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subcommittee.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a dangerous air pollutant that can travel long distances and results when sulfur-containing fuels such as coal, oil or diesel are burned. Each year, manmade sources emit more than 14 million tons of sulfur dioxide nationwide
“Current federal standards simply fail to protect public health,” said Sen. Carper. “I have long supported tighter SO2 controls that protect Americans with lung diseases like asthma, and especially children and older adults.”
The EPA has been under a court order to review the public health National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide. These standards define what is safe for the public to breathe and sets enforceable goals for state air pollution cleanup programs. The agency has not modified the public health air quality standards for SO2 since they were first set in 1971.
“Millions of Americans and thousands of Delawareans remain unprotected under our current outdated and inadequate EPA standards,” Sen. Carper said. “I believe this EPA proposal for a stringent, short-term SO2 standard will lower the health risks for millions of Americans with asthma.”
“But tighter regulations will also mean an extra burden for states to find additional sulfur dioxide reductions,” he said. “This is why we still need federal multi-pollutant legislation to help states meet these new standards – federal legislation like my three-pollutant bill that puts a tight cap on the largest sulfur dioxide emitter, fossil-fuel power plants.”
Some 70 percent of the nation’s sulfur dioxide emissions come from electricity generation. Other major sources are industrial boilers, old diesel engines, and other industrial processes such as petroleum refining and metal processing.
Specifically, the EPA ruling proposes to revise the primary SO2 standard to a level of between 50 and 100 parts per billion (ppb), measured over a one-hour period. The existing primary standards were 140 ppb measured over 24 hours, and 30 ppb measured over an entire year. The EPA also is taking comment on alternative levels for the one-hour standard up to 150 ppb.
Over the past decade, Sen. Carper has fought to reduce SO2 pollution along with the dangerous emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide through various legislative efforts, including the current climate bill debate in Congress. The senator is working on a three-pollutant bill with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would reduce SO2, NOx and mercury emissions from fossil-fuel power plants.