EPA rule limits emissions, particulates

Thursday, March 8, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Air pollution regulations are tightening in the U.S., and the Columbia Municipal Power Plant will need to restrict its emissions to comply.

The city-owned plant on Business Loop 70 faces significant restrictions on emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Allowable levels by 2014 are less than half of the plant's 2010 levels.

Sulfur dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal, contributes to various respiratory illnesses, particularly for children, the elderly and other at-risk groups, according to the EPA. Nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, have also been linked to respiratory problems, particularly for those with asthma.

Here's a look at the new regulation and what it means:

WHAT: The new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule restricts nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. It was designed by the EPA to replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which was declared illegal in 2008.

The cross-state rule, finalized in July, was expected to take effect on Jan. 1 but was put on hold in December by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and arguments are scheduled in court for April 13. The EPA believes the rule is legally sound and continues to defend it.

SO WHAT: In 2010, the Municipal Power Plant produced 242.2 tons of nitrogen oxides and 863.1 tons of sulfur dioxide, based on EPA data. In that same year, Missouri produced 58,518.1 tons of nitrogen oxides and 236,231.3 tons of sulfur dioxide.

WHAT'S NEXT: If the rule had taken effect on schedule, the allowance for the city power plant in 2012 would have been 101 tons of nitrogen oxides and 386 tons of sulfur dioxide. By 2014, the city would be limited to 297 tons of sulfur dioxides and 86 tons of nitrogen oxides.

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