Yesterday, EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR, which was the Transport Rule, which had been the Clean Air Interstate Rule. (EPA must have decided that CSAPR results in a more mellifluous acronym.)

The rule is almost too big to describe, except in its broadest terms. EPA has provided a summary of costs and benefits, but even EPA’s summary does not really explain how the rule will be implemented.

The rough numbers at least give some idea of the scope of the rule and the problem it is addressing. EPA estimates that the rule will reduce SO2 emissions by 73% from 2005 levels starting in 2012 and will reduce NOx emissions by 54%. These reductions will eliminate more than 10,000 premature deaths annually, according to EPA’s analysis. Total monetized economic benefits are up to $280 billion annually. EPA estimates annual compliance costs to be only $800 million, though that does not include $1.6 billion in annual costs already being incurred to comply with CAIR. Nonetheless, EPA is going to be able to show any court reviewing this rule an extremely favorable cost-benefit analysis.

I’d be shocked if this rule doesn’t survive judicial review, assuming it is challenged. The D.C. Circuit opinion striking down CAIR pretty much told EPA what to do – it has to implement a rule that ensures that each state meets its own emissions limit. EPA has done that, allowing basically free trading within states, and allowing interstate trading – so long as each state lives within its cap. Given the requirements of the Clean Air Act, it’s hard to see how EPA isn’t required – let alone permitted – to issue at least something very like this rule.

The irony is that the Republicans in Congress who oppose all of EPA’s rules – Representative Mike Simpson (R. ID.) called EPA the “scariest agency in the federal government” – had it in their power to allow EPA to regulate in a more cost-effective manner. Three pollutant legislation that would have allowed interstate trading was on the table in 2009 and 2010. It even had some Republican support. However, now the approach seems to be that it’s better to oppose all environmental legislation, even if that includes legislation that would be unambiguously better than what’s on the books today. 

Oh, well.