We have it. What are we going to do about it?
Harris County, long known for smog, will need to clamp down on another harmful type of air pollution for the first time under new rules imposed by federal regulators Friday.
The Environmental Protection Agency set a stricter standard for tiny particulate matter, or soot, a move that will force additional cleanup from the county, which already is out of compliance for ozone, or smog.
Harris County is the only place in Texas with soot levels in violation of the new nationwide standard. As a result, it will become harder for some industries to expand operations and could require cleaner operations along the Houston Ship Channel.
“This is the best holiday gift EPA could give breathers – the gift of cleaner air and better health,” declared Frank O’Donnell, who heads the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Clean Air Watch.
“The air did not get worse in Harris County,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute. “It is getting better, but the rules will impose new controls and costs on Harris County.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, however, said Harris County and others should meet the limit over the next decade without pollution controls beyond those existing and proposed federal rules require.
The agency estimates that complying with the new standard would cost industry nationwide between $53 million and $350 million a year by 2020. By then, all but seven U.S. counties, all of them in California, should be within the soot limit, according to the FDA’s models.
Meanwhile, the new standard should help prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths, the agency estimates.
“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act,” Jackson said. “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.”
As with all things relating to the environment and enforcement, this has been a long time coming. You have to think that if the new, more stringent standard had been put in place back in 1997, when the weaker standard that was later thrown out by the federal courts for not being sufficient to protect the environment, industry would have long since come into compliance and we’d have had 15 years of cleaner air. We’d have also saved a ton of money in healthcare costs as well as millions of lives, two facts that never seem to get mentioned in this debate as prominently as “states rights” or whatever the justification is for those that want to continue polluting at the same levels as before. Funny how that works. The Environmental Defense Fund has more.