LOS ANGELES – The Obama administration has proposed tougher standards on the amount of soot that can be released into the air, a move required by the courts but one that raised the ire of some businesses and Republicans in an election year.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the proposed change on Friday; it would decrease the allowable fine particle pollution, or soot, to a range of between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the current 15 micrograms. The agency will seek comment and hold hearings before issuing the final standard by Dec. 14. ( Just another reason to get the Democrats out of Washington…OM)
The proposed standard was praised by health groups who see the change as helping to curb lung diseases, including asthma.
But business groups and Republicans have opposed the toughening, saying that the increased regulation could prove costly and not provide the hoped-for benefits. Republicans have made increased government regulations one of their issues in an election year in which economic issues will be key.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to consider revising the standards every five years. The last revision was in 2006 and the Obama administration had hoped to delay the issue until the summer of 2013, well after November’s elections, to allow more time for scientific study. (Scientific study? How about the lost of more jobs before the election….OM)
But 11 states, including New York and California, joined with groups – including the American Lung Association – to challenge the delay. Earlier this month, a federal court backed the states and ordered the new rules be proposed.
Soot, composed of microscopic particles from factories and vehicles, can penetrate deep into the lungs, the EPA said. It has been linked to increased risk of a range of deadly health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.
In its announcement, the EPA noted that the estimated economic benefits from better health will range from $88 million a year to as much as $5.9 billion, with the estimated cost of pollution control ranging from $69 million to $2.9 million. Just six counties in the nation will not be able to meet the new standards by 2020 without additional anti-pollution efforts, the agency said. Counties that will have difficulties include Riverside and San Bernardino in California.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised the new standard, calling it “an important step forward in protecting our families and children.” In a prepared statement, she said: “When the rule to reduce soot pollution is finalized, there will be far fewer of these harmful health impacts, and it will have substantial health benefits in California and communities across the nation.”
Also praising the new rules was Dr. Albert Rizzo, chairman of the board of the American Lung Association, who said that “particle pollution kills – the science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution at levels currently labeled as officially ‘safe’ causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.”
But not everyone was praising the step.
“EPA’s proposal could substantially increase costs to states, municipalities, businesses and ultimately consumers without justified benefits,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, the main lobbying group for the oil and gas industry. “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.”
In the GOP-controlled House, the response was also muted. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said they were disappointed that the EPA did not listen to their request to retain the current standards as part of the new proposal.
“Any change to these regulatory standards could result in significant adverse economic consequences and job losses,” they stated. “Given the weak state of our economy, it is imperative the administration allow for a full and thorough review of all the alternatives, including retention of the current standards.”
In addition to California and New York, states joining in the lawsuit against the EPA were Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.