April 2008

EPA runs around White House

The analysis divisions and continuous emissions monitoring system professionals in the automation space, as well as pollution controls engineers, pay heed.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limited the allowable amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion (ppb) in March, a level significantly higher than what the agency's scientific advisers had urged for this key component of unhealthy air pollution.

A slew of industries had urged White House officials to keep the current limit, effectively 84 ppb, to minimize the cost of installing pollution controls, The Washington Post reported.

The EPA said it would cost polluting industries $7.6 billion to $8.8 billion a year to meet the 75-ppb standard, but that rule will yield $2 billion to $19 billion in health benefits.

Nearly a year ago, EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reiterated in writing its members were "unanimous in recommending" the agency set the standard no higher than 70 ppb and to consider a limit as low as 60 ppb.

EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee and public health advocates lobbied for the 60-ppb limit because children are more vulnerable to air pollution.

EPA and other scientists have shown ozone has a direct impact on rates of heart and respiratory disease and resulting premature deaths.

The agency calculates the new standard of 75 ppb would prevent 1,300 premature deaths to 3,500 premature deaths a year, whereas 65 ppb would avoid 3,000 deaths to 9,200 deaths annually.

The White House wants to rewrite the nearly 37-year-old Clean Air Act to allow regulators to take into consideration the cost and feasibility of controlling pollution when making decisions about air quality, which is against the law.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled the government needed to base the ozone standard strictly on protecting public health, with no regard to cost.

The new pollution rules will be a major factor in determining the quality of the air Americans will breathe for at least a decade.

The standards limit the amount of nitrogen oxides and other chemical compounds released into the air by vehicles, manufacturing facilities, and power plants.

In sunlight, the pollutants form ozone.