Canada, United States Cutting Acid Rain Pollution

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, December 13, 2000 (ENS) - The United States and Canada have exceeded their own expectations in successfully reducing emissions of the major contributors to acid rain, a new joint study on cross border air pollution indicates. As a result of these emissions cuts, rainfall acidity in the eastern U.S. has been reduced by up to 25 percent compared to the 1980s.

The study, "U.S.-Canada 2000 Air Quality Agreement Progress Report," is the fifth in a series of biennial reports authorized by the 1991 United States-Canada Air Quality Agreement.

power plant

Acid rain producing emissions from coal burning power plants and other sources have been reduced in Canada and the U.S. since they signed a 1991 air quality treaty (Photo by Carole Swinehart, courtesy Michigan Sea Extension)
In this report, Canada and the United States cite significant emissions reductions of major pollutants that cause acid rain - sulfur dioxide (SO2 ) and nitrogen oxides (NOx ).

The U.S. ended the first phase of its sulfur dioxide reduction program this year and began a new phase with stricter emissions caps. This year, utilities covered under the first phase reported SO2 emissions of 4.9 million tons, which was 28 percent below allowable levels for 1999 and a reduction of more than 50 percent from 1980 levels.

Full implementation of the U.S. sulfur dioxide program in 2010 is projected to result in a 10 million ton reduction of SO2 emissions, which will be about 40 percent below 1980 levels.

Canada's national cap of 3.2 million tonnes for SO2 emissions becomes fully operational this year. Canada's SO2 emissions are already below the cap, at 2.7 million tonnes, and they are projected to stay below the cap in the future.


Fossil fuel burning power stations like the Lambton Generating Station produce much of the air pollution in the Ontario, Canada region (Photo courtesy Ontario Power Generation)
Canada reduced its year 2000 nitrogen oxides emissions from stationary sources like power plants by more than 100,000 tonnes below the forecast level of 970,000 tonnes.

In the United States, year 2000 NOx emissions from power generation are expected to be reduced by more than two million tons below forecast levels. NOx emissions from all source categories are expected to be two million tons below 1980 levels this year.

As a result of the reductions, some ecosystems in New England are beginning to show signs of recovery from acidic damage.

The report also provides information on progress since 1998 in meeting other key commitments in the cross border Agreement. Updates are included on emissions forecasts, acid deposition monitoring, scientific research and the air quality programs of both governments.

The study includes data on the progress both countries have made in expanding cooperative efforts to reduce air emissions of ground level ozone (smog) and particulates. The report also cites new cooperative efforts in both nations to assess the impact of particulate transport across the border and to develop a joint work plan to address the problem.


Particulate matter from sources like this Michigan incinerator will be addressed under a new joint plan now being developed by the U.S. and Canada (Photo courtesy Lake Michigan Federation)
In 1997, the Canadian and U.S. environmental ministers signed a Joint Plan of Action for Addressing Transboundary Air Pollution on ground level ozone and particulates, and in 1998 the ministers issued a follow up Joint Plan Report.

The 2000 Progress Report considers their cooperative efforts in data analyses, modeling, monitoring and information sharing leading to development of an ozone annex to the Air Quality Agreement, and existing and planned efforts to develop a joint work plan for cross border particulate pollution.

Negotiations between Canada and the U.S. this year to develop an ozone annex to the Agreement signal the importance both governments are placing on this effort.

Copies of the report are available at: or through the Acid Rain Hotline at 202-564-9620.