EPA Tightens Clean Air Standards for Soot Pollution
EPA Tightens Clean Air Standards for Soot Pollution WASHINGTON, DC, June 15, 2012 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to update its national air quality standard for fine particle pollution, including soot, emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and diesel fuel.
The new annual standard covers particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, known as PM2.5. These particles, measuring just 1/30th the width of a human hair, can penetrate deep into the lungs. They have been linked to serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.
The microscopic particles also contribute to the haze that envelops many U.S. cities and national parks.
The agency says that meeting Clear Air Act upgrades already in place means that 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the proposed soot standard without any additional actions.
The EPA's proposal comes in response to legal action filed by the American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association. A federal court ruling in 2009 required EPA to update the standard based on the best available science.
The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
The EPA now will take public comment on a range of annual and daily standards, which are set to protect against long-term and short-term exposure to particle pollution.
EPA proposed choosing either 12 or 13 micrograms per cubic meter (µ/m3) for the annual standard and 35 µ/m3 for the daily standard.
The groups urge an even tighter annual standard of 11 µ/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µ/m3.
But industry says the current annual standard is protective enough, although the current 15 µ/m3 standard is not included in the EPA's proposal.
"A more stringent rule will discourage economic investment in counties that fail to meet new federal standards," said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs with the American Petroleum Institute.
"It's in our interest to have both clean air and a vibrant domestic economy," said Feldman. "However, the new standards would put many regions out of attainment, and companies considering a place to build a plant or refinery could perceive non-attainment as non-investment."
Last week, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce committee sent a letter to the EPA asking Administrator Lisa Jackson to consider retaining the current standard. They claimed that the "scientific evidence ... continues to be characterized by critical uncertainties."
"Manufacturers want to see the EPA include the existing standard in its range of options," said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. "Manufacturers simply can't afford this new standard at a time when we are being asked to create jobs and grow the economy. With an economy that is stalling, more rigorous regulations are not the answer."
The EPA counters that today's proposal meets the court's requirement to use the best available science and builds on steps already taken by the agency to reduce air pollution since the Obama administration took office.
"Thanks to recent Clean Air Act rules that have and will dramatically cut pollution, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the proposed standards without undertaking any further actions to reduce emissions," the EPA said in a statement today.