Strict new health standards for smog will impose extra costs as the Environmental Protection Agency rolls back the more lax Bush-era smog standards.
The new limits, proposed Jan. 7, are likely to put hundreds of counties nationwide into violation, meaning that they will have to find ways to clamp down on the pollution or risk losing federal highway dollars, for instance, reports the New York Times.
EPA puts the implementation cost of the new rules between $19 billion and $90 billion, but says it will yield health benefits of $13 billion to $100 billion, reports the Washington Post.
The Obama Administration directed the EPA to reconsider the rules in September.
The new limits are in line with what was proposed by scientists during the Bush Administration, which instead set a more relaxed standard after protests from utilities and industry.
There are actually two standards. One would limit pollution concentrations in the range of 0.60 to 0.70 parts per million, as measured over an eight-hour period. That compares to 0.75 parts per million standard as applied by the Bush Administration.
The second standard is a biologically-based standard that would put limits on cumulative pollution during summertime growing seasons.
The utility industry, which is represented by the Edison Electric Institute, noted the ” huge uncertainty” about what “this and other regulatory requirements” will mean for the sector, according to the Washington Post.
Environmental groups were quick to praise the proposed rules.
“EPA’s proposed standards promise clean air protections that reach from the nation’s urban neighborhoods and communities to our rural forests and croplands,” said Cal Baier-Anderson, Ph.D., a toxicologist with Environmental Defense Fund, in a press release.
“This EPA decision will determine the quality of the air we breathe in America for the next decade, and probably beyond. If EPA follows through, it will mean significantly cleaner air and better health protection,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, in a press release.
The proposal faces a 60-day comment period.