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EPA ordered to update particulate matter air pollution standards - International Law Office

International Law Office

Environment & Climate Change - USA

EPA ordered to update particulate matter air pollution standards

June 11 2012

On May 31 2012 a federal judge in the District of Columbia issued an order giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) one final week to issue its proposed rule updating standards for particulate matter air pollution. The American Lung Association (AlA), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and 11 states - including New York and California - had asked the court to compel the EPA to review the standards and to propose any revisions based upon the latest scientific data.(1) The proposed regulations are more than six months overdue, according to the October 2011 statutory deadline, and must meet requirements set by a federal appeals court in 2009.

Particulate matter is a form of air pollution consisting of small particles suspended in air, such as dust or soot. It is a common byproduct of combustion processes, such as those conducted in power plants and factories. Diesel truck exhaust is also a notable source of airborne particulate matter. Inhalation of particulate matter can cause asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, birth defects and premature deaths in humans.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review and consider revising air quality standards every five years. The EPA last revised the particulate matter standards in 2006, which means that new standards were due in 2011. Additionally, in 2009 the EPA had been ordered to revisit its 2006 particulate matter standards to provide a better explanation of why particular standards were sufficient to protect the public health while providing an adequate margin of safety for children and other vulnerable sub-populations. Since that court's finding, the EPA has not produced new standards and has allowed the 2011 statutory deadline to pass by without publication of a proposed rule.

The recent order required that the EPA sign a proposed rule by June 7 2012, seek expedited publication of the rule in the Federal Register and hold a public hearing within two weeks of such publication. This hearing has already been scheduled for June 11. Following the hearing, the the EPA will accept comments for seven weeks. The court order did not set a deadline for the final rule; the EPA has said that it needs until August 2013, while the ALA, Earthjustice and NPCA are lobbying for publication this December. The federal judge who issued the order encouraged both sides to reach an agreement on a deadline before the June 11 hearing.

For further information on this topic please contact Daniel Riesel or Priya Murthy at Sive Paget & Riesel PC by telephone (+1 212 421 2150), fax (+1 212 421 2035) or email (driesel@sprlaw.com or pmurthy@sprlaw.com).


(1) American Lung Ass'n v EPA, 1:12-cv-243, 5/31/12.

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