From Green Right Now Reports

As Congress settles in to debate how to control the primary greenhouse gas contributor, carbon dioxide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it’s going after sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants.

The EPA is proposing new “transport rules” that would reduce these smog- and ozone-creating gases that contribute to asthma and heart attacks. The rule, so called because it aims to protect residents in one state from pollution drift coming from another state, would strengthen previous regulations put into place during the George W. Bush Administration. It would affect 31 states, in the Midwest and East and the District of Columbia, and target coal-burning power plants and any others producing SO2 and NOx emissions.

Once put into place, the new rule could “yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms,’’ according to the EPA.

“The reductions we’re proposing will save billions in health costs, help increase American educational and economic productivity, and — most importantly — save lives,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The benefits would “far outweigh the annual cost of compliance” with the rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014.

The EPA said it expects that power plants can accomplish these emission reductions with readily with available pollution control technologies already in place at many power plants. The rule may require certain utilities to use this technology more often, according to background material put out by the EPA.

Electric utilities reported Tuesday that they would be reviewing the new requirements. Most withheld comment. An EPA spokesman said the agency expects the action will prompt a lawsuit.

Ozone, created when air pollution combines with sunlight in hot conditions, has been linked to increased asthma and other respiratory conditions. Smog, produced by a mixture of smoke and sulfur dioxide, has been shown to aggravate asthma, emphysema and harm the breathing capabilities of children and seniors.