Yes
Yes
Particulate Matter

Background

Very small, or fine, particles are released into the air around us—or are created—by emissions from many natural and manmade sources, including power plants. EPA has set standards for fine particles measured as PM2.5. PM2.5 means fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers and smaller, which is very small (the average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle).  There are hundreds of types and sources of fine particles.

While electric utilities typically remove more than 95 percent of direct fine particle emissions produced by their power plants, reactions in the atmosphere involving emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) generate sulfates and nitrates, two of the many types of PM2.5.  The power sector has reduced emissions of the SO2 and NOx “precursors” of PM2.5 by 95 and 88 percent, respectively, since 1990.​

Air Quality Standards for PM2.5

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS)—at levels that are protective of public health and welfare (environment)—for six pollutants, including PM2.5.

In 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particles to create new PM2.5 standards—15 micrograms per cubic meter for an annual average and 65 micrograms per cubic meter for a 24-hour average.  In 2006, EPA tightened the daily standard from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter; however, EPA did not find compelling evidence to support a change to the annual standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.  In December 2012, EPA tightened the annual standard from 15 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. In December 2020, EPA retained the 2012 standards.​

The Energy Industry is Reducing Emissions Related to PM2.5

The U.S. electric power sector has reduced air emissions substantially under existing programs. Since 1990, the industry has cut its two primary types of emissions that contribute to formation of particulate matter—sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 95 percent and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 88 percent.

SO2 emissions reductions from electric utilities have been achieved by installation of control technologies as a result of environmental regulations such as the 2012 and earlier PM2.5 NAAQS, the Acid Rain Program, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and regional haze requirements. 

NOx reductions from electric companies have been achieved by installation of control technologies as a result of environmental regulations—such as the 2015 and earlier ozone NAAQS; the 2012 and earlier PM2.5 NAAQS; the Acid Rain Program; the “NOx SIP Call;" the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR); the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and CSAPR Update; the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS); and regional haze requirements.

The industry will achieve greater NOx, SO2 and PM2.5 reductions in the future due to new regulations, using cleaner fuels, and increased electric generation from renewables like solar and wind.​

Resources

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