The Future of the Acid Rain Program

In 1980, as an intern with the House Natural Resources Committee, I spent hours summarizing legislative proposals to address acid rain, an issue captivating public consciousness. Thirty years later, I can see the great progress we’ve made and, along with hard-working EPA staff, I’m pleased to spread the word about that progress.

On April 8, we launched the 20th Anniversary Acid Rain Program Discussion Forum to talk about what we’ve been doing to address acid rain over the past 20 years and to create a space for open dialogue on this issue. I encourage everyone to check out the discussion forum posts to learn about the large emission reductions and high compliance rates we’ve seen under the program. You’ll also find information about improvements in air quality and human health, recovering ecosystems, and improved visibility in our parks.

Assessing where we are with acid rain is also done every few years in the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) report. The newest report, scheduled to be sent to Congress later this year, is a collaboration among EPA, other government agencies and scientists. It contains hard data on the success we’ve had in addressing acid rain, but it also underlines the work we still need to do – work that EPA is ready to tackle.

Administrator Lisa Jackson’s seven priorities for EPA specifically list reducing SO2 and NOx as top priorities for improving air quality. And so, building on the success of the Acid Rain Program and other programs, the Agency is getting ready to propose a new rule this spring that will deepen SO2 and NOx emission reductions in the East. Until that rule is finalized (sometime in 2011), the Clean Air Interstate Rule is in place and already achieving NOx and SO2 reductions from power plants. Check back with us this summer to see our progress report on results from the first year of the CAIR annual and ozone season NOx programs.

We are certain that in another 20 years we will have even MORE environmental and public health progress to share with you.

We hope you’ve enjoyed all the posts and comments on our discussion forum. Please continue the conversation with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the author: Rick Haeuber is Chief of the Assessment and Communications Branch within the Clean Air Markets Division which implements the Acid Rain Program and other cap and trade programs.