“It is impossible to ignore that, against the backdrop of a still-
fragile economy and a looming fiscal crisis, EPA is heaping another new set of costs and burdens on manufacturers,” he said.
But Brooke Suter, who heads the Clean Air Task Force’s National Diesel Clean-up Campaign, noted that the EPA’s own scientific advisory panel said that a standard that would protect public health would range between 11 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter and that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to base the rule on scientific rather than economic considerations. Her group has estimated a soot limit of 12 micrograms would save 15,000 lives a year by the time the rule takes full effect in 2020.
“When it comes down to this, we have to do this,” Suter said. “This is the law.”
It is difficult to pin down the new standard’s economic impact, partly because some of the required reductions will be achieved under other EPA rules limiting mercury and sulfur dioxide. But one of the main rules that would have cut sulfur dioxide emissions in the eastern half of the country, the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, was struck down in federal court this summer. Also, some members of Congress are threatening to block an upcoming rule curbing cruise ship pollution.
Jackson said that by 2020, the net annual benefits would range from $3.9 billion to $8.75 billion, because the EPA has already imposed pollution limits on everything from medical incinerators to off-road vehicles. “The federal government is stepping in to do most of the heavy lifting here,” she said.
Eisenberg questioned that analysis, however: “We don’t think it’s quite that clean.”
Brad Muller, vice president of marketing for Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, said his company couldn’t get an air permit to build a facility in rural North Carolina because county officials feared it would push them out of compliance.
“We’re not going to make this investment if we can’t get an air permit,” said Muller, who estimated his firm would have hired 1,985 employees and generated 815 temporary construction jobs for the new plant.
The EPA will also install roadside air quality monitors, which Jackson said will avoid missing “populations that might be exposed to much higher levels” of soot.
But Howard Feldman, the American Petroleum Institute’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said the readings could be 20 percent higher at these sites.
“The health standards aren’t based on that,” he said. “It creates an additional stringency.”