Making Sense of Proposed Multipollutant Regulations and Legislation

Jun 1, 2006
Making Sense of Proposed Multipollutant Regulations and Legislation

In March of 2005 the Bush Administration took a major step on the muli-pollutant policy front by finalizing the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the companion proposed mercury rule known as the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR). These final rules differ in small ways from the proposed versions and echo many features of President Bush's Clear Skies legislative proposal (as introduced by Senator Inhofe in the 109th Congress). RFF's Dallas Burtraw, David Lankton, and Karen Palmer  offer a summary of the important features of the two final rules including information on how the final versions of the rules differ from the proposed versions. These tables are followed by a feature-by-feature comparison of the three major legislative initiatives to cap pollution from electricity generators.

The Clean Air Interstate Rule caps annual emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from electricity generators in the eastern United States. The final version of CAIR covers a slightly different set of states than the proposed versions and includes both seasonal and annual cap and trade programs for NOx. The companion Clean Air Mercury Rule caps emissions of mercury from electricity generators nationwide. The final version of the CAMR uses a cap and trade approach to control mercury emissions and does not include the safety valve cap on mercury allowance prices included in the proposed rule.

Together, these rules would implement emission reduction targets roughly comparable with the administration's "Clear Skies Initiative" (S. 1844) relying primarily on a cap-and-trade program. The two final rules are summarized below.


Link to Final CAIR LC Table 050523
Final Clean Air Act Interstate Rule (CAIR) 
(Posted: 05/24/05)


Link to Final Mercury Rule
Final Mercury Rule
(Posted: 05/24/05)

Despite these new rules, efforts have continued on capital hill to enact national multi-pollutant legislation further limiting emissions from the electricity sector and these efforts have focused on three main legislative proposals. A legislative approach could still prove important, and it could augment or overturn the administration's regulatory strategy.

Two of the three main legislative proposals -- President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative and the Jeffords Bill -- were reintroduced in the 109th Congress early in 2005 with updated timetables and other amended features. In May 2006, Senator Carper (D-De) reintroduced his bill, which continues to represent a middle course between the two other bills. The most recent versions of the three bills are compared here.

Link to Legislative Comparison of Multipollutant Proposals
Legislative Comparison of Multipollutant Proposals S.150, S.131, and S.843
(Version 06/30/06)