The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday told 22 states from Massachusetts to Missouri to reduce smog-causing pollution, especially from electric power plants, or risk the loss of federal highway funds.
The tougher air pollution requirements will have the greatest impact on Midwest and Ohio Valley states because they have done less to curtail smog-causing nitrogen oxide releases from coal-burning power plants. Many Northeast states will have to make only modest improvements because they already have made significant reductions.
States will have two years to develop pollution control plans for the additional reductions and until 2005 to slash emissions by amounts ranging from 19% in Rhode Island and New York to 44% in West Virginia.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner said the new pollution caps are needed to stem the flow of smog-causing chemicals across state and regional boundaries, and to help communities to meet the more stringent air quality health standards announced last summer.
She said most states should meet the EPA pollution caps for nitrogen oxide by clamping tighter controls on electric power plant smokestacks, but states will have to decide how to achieve the emission reductions.
Several Midwest states, including Ohio and Michigan, were expected to oppose the EPA requirement and have not ruled out a possible lawsuit challenging the agency's authority to impose the new emission caps under the 1990 Clean Air Act.
Browner said if states don't come up with a timely pollution reduction plan, the EPA could impose a federal program, or the government could withhold federal highway funds.
The new requirements have been expected as part of the EPA's efforts to curtail the movement of pollution across long distances and to help meet the tougher health standard for ozone that the agency imposed last summer despite intense protest from industry.
The most severe cuts will be required in states with large coal-powered electric plants in the Midwest and Ohio Valley. Five states must cut emissions 40% or more: West Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky.