The emissions reductions from Clear Skies would help to alleviate our
nation's major air pollution-related health and environmental problems
including fine particles, ozone, mercury, acid rain, nitrogen deposition,
and visibility impairment. Clear Skies would:
- Cut sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 73 percent, from year
2000 emissions of 11 million tons to a cap of 4.5 million tons in
2010 and to a cap of 3 million tons in 2018.
- Cut emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 67 percent, from
year 2000 emissions of 5 million tons to a cap of 2.1 million tons
in 2008 and to a cap of 1.7 million tons in 2018.
- Cut mercury emissions by 69 percent - the first-ever national
cap on mercury emissions. Emissions would be cut from 1999 emissions
of 48 tons to a cap of 26 tons in 2010 and to a cap of 15 tons in
Emissions Reductions -
Clear Skies Would Use a Proven System of Emission Caps to:
- Protect against diseases by dramatically reducing smog and
fine particles which contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular
- Protect our wildlife, habitats and ecosystem health by reducing
acid rain, nitrogen and mercury deposition.
- Cut pollution further, faster, cheaper, and with more certainty,
using a "cap-and-trade" program that would deliver rapid and certain
improvements in air quality.
- Enable power generators to continue to provide affordable electricity while
quickly and cost-effectively improving air quality and the environment.
- Encourage use of new and cleaner pollution control technologies that
would further reduce compliance costs.
- Clear Skies is modeled on the cap-and-trade provisions of the 1990
Clean Air Act's extremely successful Acid Rain program.
- Mandatory emission reductions would be achieved through a
- Federally enforceable emissions limits (or "caps") for each
pollutant would be established.
- Sources would be able to transfer these authorized emission
limits among themselves to achieve the required reductions at
the lowest cost.
- Clear Skies would not replace the authority of state and local
government to set source-specific emissions limits to ensure
that ambient air quality standards will be met.
A Better Approach to Clean Air:
Multipollutant Legislation for the Power Sector
In the United States, power generation is responsible for 63% of sulfur
dioxide (SO2), 22% of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 37% of mercury released
to the environment by human activity. Once released, these pollutants,
together with the gases and particles they form in the atmosphere (e.g.,
ozone and particulate matter), can travel long distances before being
deposited. Environmental and public health problems resulting from power
generation emissions include:
- Diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems associated
with exposure to fine particles (particulate matter) and ozone;
- Regional haze that impairs visibility in national parks and wilderness
- Acidification of lakes, streams, and forests;
- Ecosystem and public health effects associated with the accumulation
of mercury in fish and other wildlife;
- Acidic damage and erosion of buildings, statuary, and other materials;
- Ozone damage to forests; and
- Eutrophication (a condition in an aquatic ecosystem where high nutrient
concentrations stimulate blooms of algae) in coastal areas.
While the Clean Air Act has significantly improved some of these issues,
additional reductions in emissions of SO2, NOx, and mercury are necessary
to address persistent public health and environmental problems. Because
these pollutants move beyond state and regional boundaries, individual
states or localities experiencing the direct environmental effects cannot
always control them. In addition, current law tends to address each
environmental problem independently, even if one pollutant contributes
to several problems. To more effectively address the environmental problems
caused by power generation, there is a need for a national program that
would take advantage of the benefits that would result from controlling
multiple pollutants at the same time.
Clear Skies would do this. It is a simple, cost-effective way of improving
air quality over broad, multi-state areas in a way that makes sense
for everyone. The Clear Skies approach would deliver guaranteed emissions
reductions of SO2, NOx, and mercury at a fraction of command and control
costs, increasing certainty for industry, regulators, consumers and
citizens, while maintaining energy diversity and affordable electricity.
Clear Skies Reduces and Caps Power Plant Emissions
Clear Skies is a mandatory program that will dramatically reduce power
plant emissions of SO2, NOx and mercury by national cap on each pollutant
at an average of 70% below today's levels. Over the next decade, Clear
Skies would achieve substantially greater reductions in pollution from
power plants than are attainable under current law.
NOx and SO2 requirements affect all fossil fuel-fired electric generators
greater than 25 megawatts (MW). Mercury requirements affect only coal-fired
electric generators greater than 25 MW.
First Phase of Reductions
Second Phase of Reductions
Reduction at Full Implementation
11.2 million tons
4.5 million tons
3 million tons in 2018*
5.1 million tons
2.1 million tons in 2008*
1.7 million tons in 2018*
26 tons in 2010
15 tons in 2018*
* Because sources can reduce emissions
early, earn allowances for those actions, and use those allowances
later, actual emission levels will be higher than the cap in the first
years of these phases. Further, the Clear Skies Act contains "safety
valve" provisions for NOx, SO2, and mercury to limit the marginal
costs of removal of each of the three pollutants if costs exceed a
certain threshold. The 2003 modeling, based on current technological
capabilities, shows that the cost of mercury removal is expected to
exceed the safety valve threshold for the Phase II caps. However,
technological improvements could decrease the cost of mercury control
over time and cause prices to remain below safety valve levels.
** The NOx cap is divided between two zones with separate trading programs
under each zone. Zone 2 includes states participating in the WRAP process as
well as Nebraska and some of Western Texas. Zone 1 includes the remaining 33
states in the continental U.S. and the remaining portion of Texas.
Clear Skies Provides Significant Benefits at
a Reasonable Cost
Clear Skies would result in significant benefits to public health
and the environment:
- EPA projects that, by 2020, the public health benefits alone from
Clear Skies would include more than 14,000 avoided premature deaths
and total $110 billion per year, substantially outweighing the annual
costs of $6.3 billion.
- An alternative methodology for calculating health-related
benefits projects over 8,400 premature deaths prevented and
$21 billion in health benefits - still far greater than the
- EPA projects early reductions in 2010 would result in 7,900
fewer premature deaths nationwide and $54 billion in annual
health benefits at a cost of $4.3 billion. The alternative methodology
projects that early reductions would prevent 4,700 premature
deaths and deliver $10 billion in benefits in 2010 - again,
still far greater than the cost.
- Americans would also experience approximately 30,000 fewer visits
to the hospital and emergency room, 23,000 fewer nonfatal heart attacks,
and 1.6 million fewer work loss days and 200,000 fewer school absences
each year under Clear Skies by 2020.
- Benefits of improvements in visibility in our national parks and
wilderness areas in 2020 would be $3 billion annually.
Clear Skies would help state and local governments attain the National
Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particles (PM2.5) and
- By 2010, an estimated additional 42 counties with 14 million people
would meet the fine particle standard and an additional 3 counties
with 1 million people will meet the 8-hour ozone standard.
- By 2020, an estimated 35 additional counties with 12 million people
would meet the fine particle standard.