Friday, July 6, 2012

New Air Standards May Put Libby Back to Non-Attainment Status

In response to a court order, the EPA proposed updates to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution, known as PM 2.5. The EPA identified 6 counties to achieve the standards by 2020, including lincoln, County, MT, where Libby is located.

The EPA's proposal would lower the standard from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 to 13 micrograms per cubic meter. According to Curtis Noonan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Montana who has studied the Libby change out extensively, "it may depend on if the number is set at 12 or 13, as Libby may currently fall. On an optimistic note, Professor Noonan said that he suspects, "the state DEQ would receive plenty of time to prepare a plan to meet the 202 target." This may involve more wood smoke curtailment measures.

The EPA estimates that 99% of the U.S. counties will meet the proposed rules by the year 2020 without having to make radical changes or spend a lot of money, as a result of former anti-pollution efforts. However the six counties won't meet the new standards by 202 without additional anti-pollution efforts. These counties include Riverside and San Bernardino County in California, Santa Cruz in Arizona, Wayne County in Michigan, Jefferson County in Alabama, and Lincoln County in Montana.

According to the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA must update its soot standards every five years, yet President Bush failed to enforce this update and President Obama's EPA wants more time to research these new findings and wait until after the November elections. However as a result of the lawsuit from the 6 States mentioned earlier, Obama's EPA was forced to sign a proposed rule on June 7th, 2012 however the deadline was extended to the 14th of June.

The rules are to be finalized in December of 2012 after extensive scientific research. "We will be saving hundreds of thousands of lives," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA'S Office of Air and Radiation, and that is the most important thing the EPA can do today.

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