Burning Issues

Ozone & Particulate Matter Standards

February 27, 2001

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Ozone and Particulate Matter Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27, 2001, unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Clean Air Act as EPA had interpreted it in setting health-protective air quality standards for ground-level ozone and particles. EPA set those standard in 1997 to better protect Americans from the wide variety of health problems that air pollution can cause. The Supreme Court also reaffirmed EPA's long-standing interpretation that it must set these standards based solely on public health considerations without consideration of costs.

Click here to read sections below: http://www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks4.html

+EPA's Press Release on the Supreme Court ruling. (5K PDF)
+An EPA summary of the Court's opinion and its implications for implementation of the new standards. (8K PDF)
+The Court's Opinion. (250K PDF)
+Background information on the revised standards, subsequent lawsuit, decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the federal government's appeal.

History:1997Proposed EPA Changes to Air Quality Standards

Carol Browner, head of the EPA, stated on NPR last Friday that the EPA had no intentions of regulating residential wood burning. It is well establisdhed that Residential Wood Burning is a major source of particulate pollution. If you have a wood burning neighbor, then the levels of these fine particles from his burning is greater than any other source you are likely to experience in your home. Local laws generally exempt residential wood burning, burning associated with land clearing even in populated area. The EPA is responsible for the proliferation of Residential Wood Burning by giving the impression that burning an "EPA approved stove" is safe. It is for reasons like the above that it is essential that all readers of this site express their need for a rational approach to protecting the environment and demand clear air. Resond during the comment period described below.

James Rue, Head of Air Quality, The Pennsylvia Department of Environmental Protection is quoted as saying "Never in our life time will DEP address this issue."

The following information was provided to Burning Issues by Earl Withycombe who also supplied the following biographical information:

"I am a consulting engineer in the field of air quality management specializing in particulate matter analysis and control. I devote a portion of my spare time to local environmental and public health nonprofit organizations. Currently, I serve as a clean air technical advisor and Director to the American Lung Assn of California and to the Sacramento-Emigrant Trails affiliate."

Burning Issues is very much indebted to Mr Withycombe for supplying the information in a form which facilitates our publication of it here. We hope that as many of our readers as possible will respond. It is our best chance in a long time to make a difference.

On Wednesday, November 27, USEPA proposed changes to the federal ambient air quality standards for particulate matter (PM) and ozone. A downloadable file containing the full text of each proposal can be found at http:/www.epa.gov/airlinks. EPA is proposing to adopt new standards for PM2.5 in addition to retaining the current PM10 standards. Although the California ambient air quality standards for PM10 require much cleaner air quality than those of EPA (Cal: 50 ug/m3 - 24-hr average, 30 ug/m3 - annual average; Fed: 150 ug/m3 - 24-hr average, 50 ug/m3 - annual average), although California adopted these standards in 1983, and although EPA acknowledges that adverse health effects can occur at ambient concentrations lower than the PM10 standards, EPA is not proposing to change its PM10 standards in recognition of these facts.

In response to the health effects research findings, however, EPA is proposing to add new standards for PM2.5 to its list of regulated pollutants. The adoption of PM2.5 standards will impose significant pressure on federal, state, and local air quality regulatory agencies to increase the regulation of residential wood burning. In metropolitan areas with cold wet winters and access to firewood harvesting, residential wood burning is a substantial contributor to PM2.5 concentrations measured during high pollution episodic events. (Depending on the size and location of the metropolitan area, other major contributors include diesel engines, open vegetative burning, industrial smokestacks, and gasoline engines.)

All of us who are fighting for lower PM levels and cleaner air have a unique opportunity to influence this regulatory decision by submitting comments to EPA on their proposed standards within the next 60 days. Affected industrial groups are already lining up to dump volumes of comments into the public record regarding the shortterm costs to their member companies of implementing tighter standards. EPA is required by law in setting these health-based standards to focus attention on documented health effects, not implementation costs. (For obvious political reasons, Congress and business representatives within the federal administration will apply pressure on EPA to minimize the adverse economic impacts on the business sector by adopting loose standards.) As a result, EPA is most desirous of receiving health impact information and support for tighter standards from impacted individuals and community groups. I would strong encourage members of Burning Issues to submit comments along these lines to EPA during the open comment period.

The following information on submitting comments is reprinted from the Federal Register notice advertising this proposal:

DATES: Written comments on this proposed decision must be received by January 29, 1997.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments in duplicate if possible on the proposed action to:

Office of Air and Radiation
Docket and Information Center (6102)
Attention: Docket No. A-95-54
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Ms. Patricia Koman, MD-15
Air Quality Strategies and Standards Division
Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Research Triangle Park, NC 27711
Telephone: (919) 541-5170

Burning Issues
Box 1045
Point Arena CA 95468
Tel: 707-882-3601
Email: [pm10mary at mcn dot org]
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