US issues new pollution standard, petchems and others object

15 June 2012 18:22  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday proposed tougher standards for fine particle pollution, but US energy, refining and manufacturing officials charged that the new rule will put further limits on production, investments and jobs.

The agency said by the end of this year it plans to lower the acceptable level of fine particle pollution from its current maximum of 15 micrograms per cubic metre to as little as 12 micrograms.

EPA said the proposed changes “are consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors [and] are based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies”.

But the American Petroleum Institute (API) immediately challenged EPA’s claim of scientific support for the new standard.

API director of regulatory and scientific affairs Howard Feldman said the proposal is based “on a faulty scientific analysis [in which] important scientific data have been ignored and other purported findings have been misinterpreted”.

If implemented, said Feldman, the EPA proposal “could substantially increase costs to states, municipalities, businesses and ultimately consumers without justified benefits”.

“We are concerned that it could come at a significant economic cost and lost investments and limit our ability to produce the energy our nation needs,” he said.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) also raised concerns about the scientific grounding for EPA’s new action.

“ACC believes that there are many questions surrounding the process by which EPA selected the science studies that form the basis of this PM 2.5 science review,” the council said, adding that it would comment further on the science issue.

The proposed rule, which runs to 524 pages, would amend the fine particulate pollution standard, known as PM 2.5, under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  The PM 2.5 rule governs particles of less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

Fine particle pollution includes soot and other substances emitted in all types of combustion, especially from power plants and other industrial processes.

EPA said the new lower standard for PM 2.5 is necessary because the microscopic particles can be inhaled into deep lung tissue and accumulate in the respiratory system, contributing to various lung and heart diseases or conditions and often causing premature deaths.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) also was critical of the proposed new standard, saying it was yet another regulatory imposition that impedes refining and petrochemical production without clear evidence of benefits.

AFPM vice president for regulatory affairs David Friedman cited multiple other new EPA rules on particulate matter emissions, saying that “this proposal adds to the myriad and often confusing environmental regulatory rules under which the refining and petrochemical industries must comply”.

“We are concerned about the costs that industry will incur in complying with this standard,” Friedman said, “particularly in relation to the calculated benefits.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also blasted the new rule, charging that it will have “damaging impact on manufacturers across the country, both large and small”.

NAM president Jay Timmons said the proposed standard would force some manufacturing facilities to shut down.

“Manufacturers simply can’t afford this new standard at a time when we are being asked to create jobs and grow the economy,” he said, adding: “With an economy that is stalling, more rigorous regulations are not the answer.”

EPA said the proposed rule would be open for public comment for about two months and that two public hearings would be held at unspecified times, and that the rule would be issued in final form by 14 December this year.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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