Emissions regulations still not sufficient

To the Editor:

Yesterday’s article, “The ‘Sooty Six’ are targets of new laws,” failed to accurately convey the sentiments of clean air advocates with regard to the new Sooty Six regulations that are going into effect in January.

Clean air advocates continue to work on the issue because current regulations do not go far enough to bring the plants up to modern emissions standards. The originally five, but now six, plants were targeted by environmentalists and public health advocates because they were emitting levels of pollution above the standards prescribed by the 1977 Clean Air Act.

To meet modern standards, these plants would have to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from their current .74 lbs/MMBTU to .3 lbs/MMBTU through on-site cleanup. The Department of Environmental Protection regulations going into effect this January were passed in December 2000 in response to a failed legislative attempt to clean up the plants. These regulations designated two phases in sulfur dioxide emissions reductions.

The piece of the regulations being implemented in January 2002 is the on-site reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions from .74 lbs/MMBTU to .5 lbs/MMBTU. The second phase in the regulations was supposed to be achieved by January 2003. This set of reductions would reduce the statewide average sulfur dioxide emissions to .3 lbs/MMBTU, the same level that is required on site of all plants that actually have to comply with the Clean Air Act.

But under the Connecticut regulations, the statewide reduction to .3 lbs/MMBTU of sulfur dioxide can be achieved through pollution credit trading. Pollution credit trading allows plants that continue to pollute above the statewide average to buy credits from other plants whose emissions are below the standards instead of cleaning up their emissions on site. Numerous health studies have shown that the effects of sulfur dioxide emissions have local effects, so allowing pollution credit trading means that the local health problems, asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, caused by the pollution will continue to plague residents around sites that are buying credits — the “Sooty Six,” for example.

Last spring, the state Legislature attempted to ameliorate the regulations by passing laws that would require the sulfur dioxide emissions to be reduced to .3 lbs/MMBTU on site. This legislation passed both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly in June 2001, but was vetoed by Gov. John G. Rowland. As a result, Green Corps and Connecticut for Clean Air are working with legislators once again on formulating new legislation for the upcoming session to try one last time to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions to modern standards through on site clean up .

Judith Joffe-Block ’04 and Raisa Rexer ’04

December 5, 2001

The writers are the coordinators of the Yale Green Corps.