Federal Judge Orders EPA to Issue Particulate Matter Proposed RuleJune 18, 2012
As part of a settlement agreement, the EPA has issued proposed revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particle pollution (PM). These revisions would strengthen the annual "primary" fine particle (PM2.5) standard to protect public health and would establish a separate "secondary" fine particle standard to protect visibility in urban areas. The EPA is required to issue a final rule by December 14, 2012.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review and consider revising air quality standards every five years. The agency revised the particulate matter standards most recently in 2006, which means the standards were to be reviewed and updated if needed in 2011. When the EPA missed the October 2011 deadline, eleven states and a number of advocacy groups sued to force the EPA to issue new standards. (American Lung Association v EPA, D.D.C. No. 1:12-cv-243.)
The current rulemaking process also is meant to address the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's 2009 decision to remand the 2006 standards to EPA because the agency “failed to explain adequately” why the annual fine particulate standard is sufficient to protect public health.
The proposed rules would:
- Strengthen the annual health standard for fine particles by setting the standard at a level within the range of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) to 13 μg/m3. The current annual standard, 15 μg/m3, has been in place since 1997.
- Retain the existing 24‐hour fine particle standard, at 35 μg/m3. EPA set the 24‐hour standard in 2006.
- Set a separate fine particle standard to improve visibility, primarily in urban areas. EPA is proposing two options for this 24‐hour standard, at 30 deciviews or 28 deciviews. (A deciview is a yardstick for measuring visibility.)
- Retain existing secondary standards for PM2.5 and PM10 identical to primary standards to provide protection against other effects, such as ecological effects, effects on materials, and climate impacts.
- For coarse particles, today’s proposal would retain the existing 24‐hour standard. This standard, with a level of 150 μg/m3, has been in place since 1987.
The agency is also proposing updates and improvements to the nation’s PM2.5 monitoring network that include relocating a small number of monitors to measure fine particles near heavily traveled roads. In addition, the proposal would update the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particle pollution.
The EPA estimates the proposed standards will yield significant health benefits, valued at $2.3 billion to $5.9 billion annually for a proposed standard of 12 μg/m3 and $88 million to $220 million annually for a proposed standard of 13 μg/m3 – a return of $30 to $86 for every dollar invested in pollution control. Estimated costs of implementing the proposal are $69 million for a proposed standard of 12 μg/m3 and $2.9 million for a proposed standard of 13 μg/m3.
The EPA is under court order to have a nine week comment period after the rules are published in the Federal Register, and to finalize the rules by December 14, 2012. The agency plans on making attainment/nonattainment designations by December 2014, with those designations likely becoming effective in early 2015.
Additional information is available on the Regulatory Watch PM webpage.
This post was authored by GLLF staff attorney Emily Kelchen.