The new standard is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, tightened from the previous limit of 15. The new figure is in the middle of a range the agency's science advisory panel recommended. Communities will face penalties, including lost federal transportation money, if they don't meet 12 micrograms by 2020.
EPA based its decision on health studies that found exposure to fine particles increases heart and lung disease, acute asthma attacks and early death. It estimates implementing measures to reduce particulates will cost $53 to $350 million a year, with benefits reaching $4 to $9 billion a year. There are 66 counties in eight states that don't meet the new standard.
Utilities "pleaded with" the EPA last week to delay the new rule, "arguing that the standard is based on incomplete science and would impose costly new burdens on states and cities," Broder reports. Utilities, trade groups, chemical companies and the oil and gas industry said new rules would push many communities into noncompliance, making it harder for them to get permits for new businesses. Advocates say those complaints are exaggerated because the EPA's new rule is a "common-sense pollution standard," Environmental Defense Fund lawyer Vickie Patton said. (Read more)