The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a significantly stronger air quality standard. The revised standard will change the annual health-based national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the agency, this change is designed to protect citizens from the dangerous and costly health effects of fine particle pollution. The EPA estimates that this modification will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, which equates to approximately $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032. In addition, the EPA is modifying the PM2.5 monitoring network design criteria to include a factor that accounts for proximity of populations at increased risk of PM2.5-related health effects to sources of air pollution.
In a recent quote, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said, “This final air quality standard will save lives and make all people healthier, especially within America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities. Cleaner air means that our children have brighter futures, and people can live more productive and active lives, improving our ability to grow and develop as a nation. EPA looks forward to continuing our decades of success in working with states, counties, Tribes, and industry to ensure this critical health standard is implemented effectively to improve the long-term health and productivity of our nation.”
Not everyone is on board with this change, however. National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement that read: “The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard takes direct aim at manufacturing investment and job creation, in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthening manufacturing in communities all across America. The new standard of 9 and the EPA’s paltry 60-day implementation window will guarantee projects currently under permitting review will have to comply with this onerous decision, making an already gridlocked permitting system further gridlocked.
Manufacturers in America will also be hard pressed to make long-term investment plans domestically as our global competitors have set more reasonable goals. The EU standard is currently 25, and a proposal there would be to reach 10 by 2030. The UK has a target of 10 by 2040.”