Southern California environment news and trends

EPA proposes stricter national limits on fine particle pollution

A view of downtown Los Angeles,Californi

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Under pressure from a lawsuit submitted by 11 states (including California) and the National Lung Association, the Environmental Protection Agency is submitting new air quality standards that would restrict the amount of soot that can be released into the air.

As reported by the L.A. Times, the proposed change would decrease the allowable fine particle pollution (AKA soot) across America to a range of between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the current 15 micrograms. Soot has been linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lung cancer and heart disease.

“Through this rule making, the EPA will get information into the hands of American families so they can manage their lives better,” said Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA during a telephone press conference today. “Mothers of asthmatic children, the elderly, folks who suffer from respiratory or cardiac or pulmonary challenges.”

She also explained the economic benefits of the new restrictions, and they’re substantial, ranging from $88 million to $5.9 billion. That would be in contrast to the pollution control costs, which would range from $2.9 million to $69 million.

McCarthy stressed that these new restrictions would build on previous steps taken to reduce air pollution, enough that 99 percent of America’s counties are projected to meet the updated standards even without the new regulations.

Of the six counties that would not be able to meet those standards without more help, two are in California: Riverside and San Bernadino. They’re joined by counties Santa Cruz in Arizona, Wayne in Michigan, Jefferson in Alabama and Lincoln in Montana.

“In those few areas with specific localized challenges, like diesel engines around ports, rail yards, roadways or whether it’s wood stoves in valleys,” McCarthy said, “the EPA will partner with those communities by providing technical assistance or other voluntary initiatives aligned to achieve the same clean air standards that others will be enjoying.”

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