US EPA toughens fine-particle standard; industry objects

14 December 2012 19:46  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday issued tougher standards for fine-particle pollution, saying the action is necessary to improve public health, but the move was quickly criticised by industry.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that the new standard puts the acceptable level of fine-particle pollution at 12 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the existing level of 15 micrograms.

The toughened standard for fine-particle pollution was first proposed in June this year and was immediately opposed by industry.

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

Part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the fine-particle pollution rule is known as PM 2.5 because it covers emissions of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.

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.

Jackson said that full nationwide compliance with the new PM 2.5 standard could be achieved in less than eight years.

“By 2020, 99% of US counties are projected to meet [these] revised health standards without any additional actions,” she said.

Jackson said EPA estimates that fewer than ten of the 3,000 counties in the US will have to take corrective actions to meet the new PM 2.5 standard by the 2020 compliance deadline.

She said that the agency estimates the cost of compliance nationwide would range between $53m (€40.3m) and $350m, but that the benefits to health and in health care savings could be as much as $9bn annually.

But the EPA action was immediately criticised on Friday by industry and business representatives.

Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), charged that EPA is displaying “a staggering level of short-sightedness by dropping another harsh regulation on America’s job creators”.

“This new standard will crush manufacturers’ plans for growth by restricting counties’ ability to issue permits for new facilities, which makes them less attractive for new business,” Timmons said.

Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the new EPA rule “is unnecessary and could drive up costs for new and expanding businesses trying to hire employees”.

Feldman also challenged EPA’s scientific basis for the tougher standard, arguing that there is no compelling evidence for the tougher policy.

In addition, he said, “We fear this new rule may be just the beginning of a ‘regulatory cliff’ that includes forthcoming ozone rules, the refinery sector rules, pending greenhouse gas regulations for refineries” and other pending rulemaking by the agency.

He said that API is asking the Obama administration to disclose all of the scientific data that the EPA used in making the rule change.

($1 = €0.76)

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


By: Joe Kamalick
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