EPA Reduction in Annual Maximum Ceiling for Fine Particulates

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to reduce the annual maximum ceiling for fine particulates, a major cause of smog, in the atmosphere.  The new standard would set the level at 12 to 13 micrograms per cubic square foot of air, a decrease from the current maximum level of 15 micrograms.  This change will result in new regulations, which will primarily affect the energy and manufacturing industries.

The Clean Air Act requires the E.P.A. to reconsider its particulate standards every five years, but the agency delayed doing so until June, when the District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the E.P.A. to sign a new rule.  On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a rule that would lower the annual maximum ceiling for fine particulates.  This rule will act to decrease the ceiling from 15 micrograms per cubic square foot of air to 12 or 13 micrograms.  The E.P.A. establishes the annual level of an area by measuring the fine particulates in the air on a rolling basis over a year.  One of the most well know forms of fine particulate is soot, which includes particles released from industrial power plants, wood-burning stoves, and diesel trucks and buses.  It has been linked to thousands of deaths every year.  

The proposed rule has been highly debated.  Proponents of the stricter rule include public health advocates and environmental groups.  They argue that lower levels of fine particulates will result in 2,000 fewer premature deaths every year from heart and lung complications.  Critics, mostly comprised of industry officials, contend that the lower allowed levels could restrict economic growth and cause job losses.  Jeffrey R. Holmstead, the former head of the E.P.A.’s Air Office under George W. Bush claims that even a small decrease in the standard will result in a great number of new regulations affecting the energy and manufacturing industries.  An Obama administration official says the decision to lower the ceiling is consistent with independent scientific research and very few counties will fail to meet the standard with continued compliance with E.P.A. regulations.  The proposed rule would represent the first change to the fine particulate standard since 1997, but the new particulate ceiling will not be set until after the November elections.

For more information, contact Phillip Hoover.

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