Citing the need to strengthen safeguards to public health, the Obama administration announced the strictest standards in 15 years for soot, the fine particles emitted by power plants and diesel vehicles that contribute to haze and respiratory ailments.
The Environmental Protection Agency tightened the limit, called the national ambient air quality standards for fine particles, to 12 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual average level of fine particulate matter from the standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter last set in 1997.
“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “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.”
Right now, 99% of U.S. counties are already in compliance with the new standard, the EPA said. Of the remaining counties that will be out of compliance, or in non-attainment, many of them will be in California, the EPA said. States have until 2018 to submit their plans to meet the new standards and then until 2020 to comply. Moreover, they could ask for an extension until 2025 “depending on the severity of an area’s fine particle pollution problems and the availability of pollution controls,” the EPA said.