The EPA’s new air quality standards reduce the amount of soot allowed in the air
Two California counties are already behind the eight-ball with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new limits on soot. San Bernardino and Riverside are the only counties in the country that the EPA projects will not be able to adhere to the upper limits of its new range.
Soot has been linked to asthma, heart attacks and strokes and it’s also a culprit in climate change. The nasty stuff, also known as black carbon, comes from smoke from fires, diesel tailpipes and industrial emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing an update to its national air quality standards, which seeks to lower the amount of soot in the atmosphere. The new rule would limit the annual exposure to fine particle pollution to between 12-and-13 micrograms per cubic meter. The current standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
The New York Times’ Green blog writes that the EPA had delayed issuing the politically volatile proposal until it was ordered to by a federal court judge. California was one of the states that challenged the delay:
The E.P.A.’s proposal comes as President Obama faces both a re-election battle focusing on his handling of the economy and fierce opposition from Congressional Republicans on any new environmental regulation. In one concession, the administration backed off last September from efforts to tighten ozone regulations — a delay that has also been challenged by states and public health advocates in federal court.
The proposed soot rule is certain to be debated until a final particulate level for the new standard is set after the November elections.
The EPA says it expects that 99% of counties in the U.S. will be able to achieve these new standards by 2020. A map [PDF] shows which counties won’t make the cut; aside from the California counties, there are a few others around the country that won’t be able to attain the stricter 12 micrograms per cubic meter.
The EPA will accept public comments and hold two as-yet-unscheduled hearings on the proposal — one of them will be in Sacramento. It will issue the final rule in December.