InfrastructureEPA issues new soot pollution standard over industry’s objections

Published 17 December 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting under court order, on Friday issued a new standard for soot pollution; the agency estimates the cost of complying to be between $53 million and $350 million – and the estimated benefits to be between $4 billion and $9 billion; utilities, manufacturers, chemical companies, and the oil and gas industry asked for a delay in issuing the rule, arguing it would be costly to implement

The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), acting under court order, on Friday issued a new standard for soot pollution.

The EPA has set a standard of twelve micrograms per cubic meter of air. The previous standard, set in 1997, was fifteen micrograms, which a federal court has found too weak.. The New York Times reports that the new standard falls within the range of eleven to thirteen micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the EPA’s science advisory panel.

The deadline for complying with the new standard is  2020.

 

 

The agency estimates the cost of complying to be between $53 million and $350 million – and the estimated benefits to be between $4 billion and $9 billion.

At this time, sixty-six counties in eight states do not meet the new  standard, including Houston, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, St Louis, and Chicago. The EPA thinks by 2020 only seven counties, all of them in California, will still not  in compliance.

“We know clearly that particle pollution is harmful at levels well below those previously deemed to be safe,” Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, said in a statement. “By setting a more protective standard, the E.P.A. is stating that we as a nation must protect the health of the public by cleaning up even more of this lethal pollutant. It will save lives.”

Utility officials joined with trade associations representing manufacturers, chemical companies, and the oil and gas industry to ask the EPA to delay the release of the new rule. They said that  the new standard would impose costly new burdens on state and cities and is based on incomplete science. The rule’s opponents also argued that  the new standard would make more communities non-compliant, thus making it harder for industry to acquire permits for new businesses which would create new jobs.

Jeffery Holmstead, who managed the EPA’s air quality office during President George W. Bush’s administration, said  the impact of the new standard depends on how the EPA enforces it.

“Normally, a new standard means a rash of new regulations, but E.P.A. claims that virtually every area of the country will meet the new standard without the need for new regulatory requirements,” Holmstead wrote in an e-mail to the Times. “If so, then maybe the new standard won’t cause the type of economic disruption that we’ve seen in the past.”

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