On December 14, the US Environmental Protection Agency revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particle Pollution, announcing a more stringent standard for harmful fine particle pollution, known as PM2.5, including soot. In response to a federal court order declaring the standards too weak to adequately protect public health, the final rule sets an annual standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, a decrease from the 15 micrograms standard set in 1997. The EPA based the new standard on health studies that found that exposure to fine air particles caused an increase in heart and lung disease, asthma, and early death. Read the EPA’s full press release here.
EPA estimates that the health benefits of the revised standard will range from $4 to$ 9 billion annually, with implementation costs from $53 to $350 million. Opponents of the rule, including utility industry officials, are concerned about these costs, but EPA estimates that 99 percent of counties in the US will meet the standard without taking additional action.