EPA In Quandary Over State Boundary Lines for Ozone

By David Wojick
Copyright 1998 Electricity Daily (reprinted with permission)
May 29, 1998

The Environmental Protection Agency has a big ozone transport problem, thanks to Pennsylvania. The Keystone State wants EPA to control upwind NOx even though the agency has no plan to do so.

This creates a dilemma for the agency. The problem stems from petitions filed last August by eight Northeast states, calling for NOx reductions by Midwestern and Southern power plants to help the Northeast meet the ozone standard (ED, Aug. 15, '97). The petitions were supposed to "backstop" EPA's proposed NOx reduction rulemaking for the 22 easternmost states in the Ozone Transport Assessment Group region. EPA is preparing a federal implementation plan, due in September, to respond to the petitions, if necessary (ED, Apr. 17). In the process, according to an EPA source, the agency has suddenly realized that the Pennsylvania petition calls for NOx reductions in Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi--states outside the 22-state region.

The Pennsylvania petition raises a problem that was widely discussed during the OTAG process, but never resolved--the science of ozone transport does not support the idea that transport starts at state lines. According to the EPA source, the agency is now in a line-drawing quandary. If it grants the petition, it is acknowledging that transport from outside the regulated 22-state region affects the Northeast, and it must extend the scope of regulation to the named states. If it denies the petition, it must claim that significant transport begins at the border of that region. States along the border, such as Alabama and Missouri, are sure to object, as they did during the OTAG process.

The 22-state region was originally delineated as a convenience for modeling. OTAG formalized it as the recommended control area late in its deliberations, but let out some states, such as Mississippi, while keeping in others, like Alabama. EPA did not discuss the OTAG boundaries in its proposal. The Pennsylvania petition now appears to have forced the issue of the boundary's legitimacy.

None of the other petitions name all 22 states in the control region. According to the agency source, EPA could argue that the border states are in the control area because of nearby non-attainment areas like Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta. However, this would raise the issue of why states close to those non-attainment areas, such as Nebraska and Florida, are not also in the control area.

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