Thursday, January 7, 2010
U.S. expects expensive new pollution standards to bring major health benefits
New pollution regulations proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could impose costly requirements on businesses and local governments but result in measurable health benefits to millions. The new standards proposed Thursday by the Obama administration will, assuming implementation, replace Bush administration-promulgated standards that were challenged as too weak by environmentalists and being reviewed by the courts, according to the New York Times. “E.P.A. is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face,” said EPA chief Lisa Jackson, an Obama appointee. “Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease. It dirties our air, clouds our cities and drives up our health care costs across the country.” The new rules would limit levels of ground-level ozone, or smog, to between 0.6 and 0.7 parts per million over the next two decades, and would cost polluting industries as much as $90 billion a year to implement. The Bush administration proposed a 0.75 ppm limit. But the EPA said benefits to human health from the lower limits would be as much as $100 billion a year in reduced medical costs. The agency said as many as 12,000 premature deaths from heart or lung disease could be avoided, as well as thousands of cases of bronchitis, asthma and non-fatal heart attacks. “This is exactly what states and localities have advocated for 30 years,” said S. William Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the Times said. “The benefits will likely trump the costs many times over.” But what would environmental regulation be without industry opposition to rules that seem unquestionably beneficial? The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, issued a statement claiming the benefits were likely overstated and did not justify the extra burden on industry. It called the proposal "an obvious politicization of the air quality standard setting process" that would negatively impact future fuel development, the Times said.