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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The environmental cost of reducing agricultural fine particulate matter emissions

Author
item Funk, Paul

Submitted to: Journal of Air and Waste Management Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 23, 2009
Publication Date: June 21, 2010
Citation: Funk, P.A. 2010. The environmental cost of reducing agricultural fine particulate matter emissions. Journal of Air and Waste Management Association. 60(6):681-687.

Interpretive Summary: Should an agricultural processing facility be required to reduce PM2.5 emissions, the most likely control measure would be new dust cyclones in series with existing ones. Additional control measures require electricity to operate. This paper compares the mass of emissions generated while producing that electrical energy to PM2.5 emissions reduced by additional controls. Generating that electricity had an environmental cost, potentially harming human health, exceeding the environmental benefit of that additional control equipment. Authors of State Implementation Plans must consider the environmental impact of complying with rules intended to achieve compliance in National Ambient Air Quality Standards particulate non-attainment areas.

Technical Abstract: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in 2006, reducing acceptable fine particulate (PM2.5) levels; state environmental protection agencies in states with non-attainment areas are required to draft State Implementation Plans (SIP) detailing measures to reduce regional PM2.5 levels by reducing PM2.5 and PM2.5 precursor emissions. These plans need to account for increases in emissions caused by operating control technologies. Potential PM2.5 emissions reductions realized by adding a second set of dust cyclones were estimated for the cotton ginning industry. Increases in energy consumption were calculated based on dust cyclone air pressure drop. Additional energy required was translated into increased emissions using published emission factors and state emissions inventories. Reductions in gin emissions were compared to increases in emissions at the power plant. Because of the electrical energy required, reducing one unit of agricultural PM2.5 emissions at a cotton gin results in emitting 0.11 to 2.67 units of direct PM2.5, 1.39 to 69.1 units of PM2.5 precursors, 1.70 to 76.8 units of criteria pollutants, and 692 to 15,400 units of greenhouse gasses at the point where electricity is produced. If regulations designed to reduce rural PM2.5 emissions increase electrical power consumption, the unintended net effect will be more emissions, increased environmental damage and a greater risk to public health.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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