EPA’s recently released 2003 emissions data shows that power plant SO2 emissions increased by more than 400,000 tons between 2002 and 2003, rising from 10.19 million tons to 10.59 million tons, or 3.9 percent. Carbon dioxide emissions increased by roughly 47 million tons, from 2.425 billion tons in 2002, to 2.472 billion tons in 2003, a 2 percent increase. Nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants declined 5.6 percent, dropping from 4.36 million to 4.12 million tons.
SO2 and NOx interact in the air to form nitric and sulfuric acids, commonly known as acid rain. Besides causing major environmental and property damage, SO2 and NOx combine to form fine particle pollution that causes asthma attacks and lung ailments. According to EPA studies, fine particle pollution from power plants is linked to heart and lung diseases, which contribute to more than 20,000 premature deaths a year.