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Less Smog Now in Eastern U.S.: EPA

A market-based program is improving air quality, agency claims

FRIDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants, cars and other industry are significantly lower in the eastern United States -- making for less ozone and therefore less smog and healthier air, government officials reported Thursday.

According to the NOx Budget Trading Program annual report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), summertime nitrogen oxide emissions were 7 percent lower than in 2005, 60 percent lower than in 2000 and 74 percent lower than in 1990.

"This report confirms that we are keeping the pace in our steady march toward clearer air and healthier lives," Stephen L. Johnson, EPA's administrator, said during a teleconference Thursday.

This program is just one of EPA's market-based tools for improving the environment, Johnson said. By 2015, the program will cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 60 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by 70 percent throughout the eastern United States," he said. "This will prevent over 17,000 premature deaths per year," he added.

The nitrogen oxides program is a so-called "cap and trade" program. Under this system, the EPA sets a cap on the amount of pollution that can be emitted. Companies whose emissions are lower than the cap can sell their excess emissions credits to companies whose emissions exceed the cap.

This transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In essence, the buyer is being fined for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions. According to the EPA, the nitrogen oxide allowance market has resulted in more than 99 percent compliance with the program's requirements.

More information

See the full report at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

-- Steven Reinberg

SOURCE: Sept. 27, 2007, teleconference with Stephen L. Johnson, administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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