On June 15, 2012, U.S. EPA proposed stricter standards to the
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) under the Clean Air
Act for fine particulate matter. The proposed rule, which is the
result of a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Washington
D.C Circuit brought by environmental groups and certain states,
proposes to tighten the annual standard for particulate matter
under 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) from 15 micrograms per cubic meter
(ug/m3) (the 2006 standard) to between 12 and 13 ug/m3. The rule
also proposes a new separate standard for improving visibility in
urban areas of either 28 to 30 "deciviews," a measurement
of visibility. The proposed rule and "fact sheets"
provided by the Agency make clear that EPA is not proposing a
change to the existing 24-hour and secondary standards for fine and
course particulate matter set in 2006.
EPA claims that the new standard will come at an annual cost of
between $2.9 million and $69 million (depending upon a final
standard of 12 or 13 ug/m3), but claims these costs are outweighed
by alleged health benefits of $220 million to $5.9 billion. EPA is
also claiming that all but six counties in the United States should
be able to meet the new standards without additional action.
However, San Bernadino and Riverside Counties in California, Santa
Cruz County in Arizona, Wayne County in Michigan, Jefferson County
in Alabama, and Lincoln County in Montana – are all
expected to need to reduce fine particulate emissions to attain the
Under state and federal Clean Air Act regulations, counties that
are out of attainment with the NAAQs can be subject to special
"Retro-active Control Technology" (RACT) requirements,
and new sources of fine particulate emissions will need to obtain
"offsets" prior to construction among other
In addition to the new proposed standards, EPA is also proposing
changes to monitoring requirements for fine particulate matter
including the addition of fine particulate ambient air monitors
especially along urban highways.
EPA's proposed rule comes during an election year and is
expected to draw broad criticism from Republicans and industry
groups. Environmental groups are already praising the new proposed
lower standards. The new proposed rule has not yet been published
in the Federal Register. Comments on the new proposed rule
are due within 63 days of publication in the Federal
Register and can be submitted through http://www.regulations.gov. The proposed rule
and related fact sheets can be viewed at http://www.epa.gov/pm/actions.html.
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