Acting under a court order to update its soot standards, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced stricter regulations late last week. Exposure to soot (also known as fine particulate matter) is linked to many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and premature death.
The new rules will tighten air quality standards related to soot by 20 percent. In a statement, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency is fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act.
“We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air.”
Earlier this year, the EPA was sued by 11 states (Pennsylvania was not among them) for failing to revise and update its soot standards.
The New York Times reports that local governments will have until 2020 to comply with the new standards, and most are expected to meet the targets:
Today 66 counties in eight states do not meet the new standard, including the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The E.P.A. estimates that by 2020, when the rule is fully in force, only seven counties, all of them in California, will still be out of compliance. Other current rules on mercury, sulfur and other pollution from vehicles, factories and power plants will cause that reduction.
The new standards are not popular among some industry groups and Republican members of Congress. According to Bloomberg, opponents are concerned more regulation could harm economic growth:
Republicans in Congress have taken aim at EPA Clean Air Act measures issued over the past year, voting more than a dozen times to try to undo stricter protections. Each of those attempts died in the Senate. Environmentalists said they are girding for a similar fight over the new standards.