Connecticut Still Waiting for Action on Federal Clean Air Plans

Jul 11, 2014

Connecticut has to wait for more federal action on cross-border pollution, according to a top environmental official who visited Hartford.

Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, is working on the agency's "Clean Power Plan." That's a proposal to cut pollution from existing power plants. It's long, at 645 pages, and adopts a state-by-state approach toward reaching overall emission goals set in Washington. 

"It's a great read," McCabe said. "I was comparing it to the latest Harry Potter book, where it's really anticipated. What's going to be in it?"

The plan came out in June and public comment extends to October. What does it propose?

"It sets a target for each state -- a carbon intensity target," McCabe said. In other words, the plan sets a limit on how much carbon dioxide can go out of a smoke stack for every megawatt of electricity produced. 

States will have until at least June 2016 to draft their individual proposals. The EPA said the plan would eventually cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels.

Connecticut is one of nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade program where states buy and sell pollution credits. About 90 percent of Connecticut's energy comes from natural gas or nuclear power, and the state has only one coal plant left, Bridgeport Harbor Station.

This raises a bigger question: Can the feds regulate pollution that blows into New England from other states? "This is not an easy thing," McCabe said. "I'll just say that -- whether you're on the downwind side or the upwind side."

Enter the "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule," which restricts emissions from states in the Rust Belt and Appalachia. McCabe said their pollution can blow into New England via prevailing winds. 

Implementation of this rule has been held up by legal challenges, but a six-to-two Supreme Court ruling in April said the EPA can regulate cross-state air pollution. McCabe said she hopes that will pave the way to implementation of the cross-state rule in the coming months.