EPA softens stance on cross-state air pollution rule

The Environmental Protection Agency, facing intense opposition from some states and industry, softened today a new rule that requires again power plants to sharply cut emissions that cause smog and soot in neighboring states.

The federal agency said changes to the regulation, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, include additional allowances for emissions in a 27-state trading program scheduled to begin Jan. 1.

Texas, which has sued the EPA over the rule, will receive most of the new credits in the market for sulfur dioxide, which forms the tiny particles known as soot. To comply with the regulation, companies may purchase credits or install modern pollution controls, such as scrubbers, to earn credits that they can then sell.

Dallas-based Luminant, the state’s largest power producer, has said the rule will force the closing of units at one of its coal-fired plants and three nearby mines. A spokesman said the company is reviewing the changes to determine whether they satisfy its concerns.