EPA Releases Annual Air Trends Report
On Tuesday (May 23), the Environmental Protection Agency released its annual interactive report, revealing decreases in air pollution and other long-term trends. The report, titled “Our Nation’s Air: Trends Through 2022,” tracks the country’s progress in controlling air pollution.
According to the release, the report allows users to track trends in air quality and emissions data, explore efforts to improve visibility in treasured national parks, and explore community-level health impacts of air toxics emissions reported for 2020.
“This report highlights the crucial role EPA’s work—coupled with the unrelenting efforts of our state, tribal, community and industry partners—have played in improving air quality across the country,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.
“Even as the economy grows, we continue to see dramatic long-term reductions in air emissions. This progress is encouraging, and we will continue to collaborate with our partners to protect public health and ensure clean air for all.”
The EPA reports that, between 1970 and 2022, the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 78%, while the economy grew by 304% over the same period. To find this data, the EPA states that they examine long-term trends on the nation’s progress towards clean air.
Additionally, concentrations of harmful air pollutants in the country dropped significantly from 1990 to 2022, including:
The EPA also notes that air quality can be affected and vary from year to year. Changes in weather and events such as dust storms and wildfires can reportedly impact air quality in certain areas. Impacts associated with climate change, such as temperature, precipitation and drought, can also affect the timing and severity of these wildfires.
The report also highlights the projects that have been selected for the Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring Grants, providing information for each project as of November 2022.
The EPA expects that these funds will “enhance air quality monitoring in communities across the United States—particularly those that are underserved, historically marginalized, and overburdened by pollution.”
Additionally, the report features interactive graphics that viewers to download information by pollutant, geographic location and year.
Power Plant Emissions Data
Back in February, the EPA released its annual data on power plant emissions, reportedly reflecting a long-standing trend of decreasing annual emissions due to changes in the mix of fuels used in electricity generation.
The 2022 report, which covers the lower 48 states, showed electricity demand increased by 2% for these power plants and by 3% for all electric generation in the first 11 months of 2022.
According to the release, compared to 2021, the latest data showed a 4% decrease in nitrogen oxide emissions, a 10% decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions, a 1% decrease in carbon dioxide emissions and a 3% decrease in mercury emissions.
Ozone season nitrogen oxide emissions also decreased by 10%. The EPA notes that this number decreased by 21% in states covered by the current Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which requires additional nitrogen oxide emission reductions to facilitate attainment of the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Overall, annual emissions from power plants of sulfur dioxide fell by 93% and nitrogen oxide emissions fell by 87% between 1990 and 2022. In 2022, sources in both the CSAPR annual program and the Acid Rain Program (ARP) together emitted 0.85 million tons of sulfur dioxide, a reduction of 11 million tons from 1995 levels.
Additionally, last year, sources in these programs together emitted 0.75 million tons of nitrogen oxide, a 5.1-million-ton reduction from 1995 levels. While complying with programs to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, power plants reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by 22% between 1995 and 2022.
The EPA reports that these long-term declines in the power sector help reduce air pollution and public health.
Emissions data collected through the ARP, the CSAPR programs and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are posted online and accessible to the public on the EPA’s Power Plant Emission Trends page.