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EPA Proposes Stricter Clean-Air Regs

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher clean-air regulations yesterday in an effort to limit smog nationwide. The move would cost heavy industry up to $90 billion, but save a comparable amount on healthcare, the agency says.
The proposal seeks to limit ground-level ozone to between 60 and 70 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period, down from a looser 75 ppb limit set in 2008 under the Bush administration. The 2008 standard was widely regarded as too relaxed, and was installed against the unanimous counsel of EPA’s science advisors.
The tighter standard would require industry to cut emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which form smog when exposed to sunlight. Coal-fired power plants and refineries would be hit hardest, experts say, but airlines and shipping companies would also be affected.
Whether or not the use of drycleaning solvents would be curtailed by the lower standard remains to be seen. While industry operators have slashed emissions over the last 20 years, regional authorities may be forced to install additional measures to bring their counties into compliance with the stricter standard.
EPA says the move will cost from $19 billion to $90 billion to implement, and save anywhere from $14 billion to $100 billion in healthcare costs related to asthma, lung disease and the resulting lost productivity. Major health organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA), American Lung Association (ALA) and American Heart Association (AHA) are in favor of a 60 ppb standard.
“These are standards that lung doctors tell us we need to make breathing safe,” says David Baron, attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice. “The law requires clean-air standards to protect people’s health with a margin of safety, and the current standards don’t do that.”
The American Petroleum Institute (API) says the proposal “lacks scientific justification,” however, noting that the oil and natural gas industries have already invested more than $175 billion toward improved environmental performance.
The EPA will accept public comment for 60 days before issuing a final decision in August.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .