New Air Pollution Laws have been developed for Utah, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article today.
Current standards allow communities a certain number of days when air exceeds 65 micrograms of these fine particles per cubic meter before the EPA requires added pollution cuts. The new standard would reduce the daily trigger to 35 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.
Every Utah county meets the current standard. But, based on air-pollution data collected by the state over the past three years, 10 counties – Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Summit Tooele, Utah and Juab – would exceed the 35-microgram limit.
(The Tribune has nicely provided a context at the end of its article for PM2.5:
PM 2.5 PARTICLES are 1/40th the width of a human hair.
PM 2.5 is produced mainly from engines in cars and trucks.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS say tough new standards for the pollutant will prevent about 17,000 premature deaths each year.)
Many environmentalists, though, feel the standards need to be even more tough.
There is a growing body of evidence that even the smallest amount of fine-particle pollution has an impact on health, complained Thursday the new regulations were too weak.
They noted that the EPA ignored the advice of its own science panel – which recommended a daily limit no higher than 25 – and that the agency failed to adopt tougher annual limits for PM2.5, a move that saved industry billions of dollars.
“It’s disappointing that the EPA has once again put industry before public health,” said Alice McKeown, air analyst for the Sierra Club.
“This decision goes against the combined recommendations of over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies, medical and health groups and the EPA’s own independent science advisers. It was clearly based on political science, not medical science.”
John Veranth, a University of Utah air-pollution researcher and chairman of the state Air Quality Board, said the EPA admitted its course particle proposal was “fundamentally flawed,” as he had argued in comments submitted to the agency last summer.
“I think they expect a lot more research in the next few years on that,” said Veranth, who praised the lowered PM2.5 standard.
Sprott said vehicles that use cleaner emission technologies and expanded mass transit will go a long way toward keeping northern Utah within the new limits.
But added measures may be needed to cut PM2.5 by the time EPA starts upholding the new limits about three years from now, he said.
Once again, toughening standards is a start and a “band-aid solution”. The bottom line is that not only do standards need to be strengthened, but more education is needed so that people significantly reduce their dependence on automobiles and revert to alternative forms of energy and transportation.