New soot standard will keep clean-air progress moving

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New soot standard will keep clean-air progress moving

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:21 pm

Editorial | New soot standard will keep clean-air progress moving
12:05 AM, Dec 26, 2012

They once measured air pollution in Louisville by the inch, with buckets and yardsticks. Thankfully for anyone who needs to breathe, those days are long gone.

Now, regulators deal in parts per million or micrograms per cubic meter.

Those are microscopic quantities — but potentially deadly, nonetheless.

To its credit, Louisville began working to improve air quality long before the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 42 years ago.

But in those four decades, EPA has been like a personal trainer, making sure states and cities comply with federal clean-air rules that are based on the latest in environmental-health science.

The trainer has once again challenged communities to do better.

EPA administrator Lisa M. Jackson this month issued a new national standard for fine particle pollution. The microscopic bits of soot and other particles can lodge deeply in the lungs and can cause premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.

“We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” Ms. Jackson said.

She chose a standard that requires all communities to keep their soot levels down to an annual average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter, and to get there by 2020.

EPA won’t decide which counties are offenders until 2014.

But based on the most recent monitoring, the Louisville area would not likely comply. In fact, of 66 counties across the country that would fail to meet the new standard right now, three are in Kentucky and eight are in Indiana.

They include Jefferson and Bullitt counties in Kentucky, and Clark and Floyd counties in Southern Indiana.

But soot levels in the city are already dropping to near the new standard, and Tom Nord, spokesman for the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, said his agency is confident the new standard is within reach.

That’s in large part because of what’s already under way.

The dirty Duke Energy Gallagher coal-fired power plant in New Albany shut down two of its four units last January. Soot levels in the area subsequently dropped to their lowest in at least five years.

LG&E and KU Energy just began construction on a nearly $1 billion clean-up of its coal-fired Mill Creek plant in southwest Louisville. LG&E will also close its coal-fired Cane Run plant in western Louisville and replace it with a cleaner burning natural gas plant in 2015.

Relatively new federal rules have also taken the belching black soot out of diesel engines nationally.

Decade by decade, the air quality in the Louisville Metro area has gotten better. The region has also maintained key parts of its manufacturing heritage, such as Rubbertown, Ford and General Electric, grown its economy and population, and unfortunately added many more cars and trucks to local roadways.

The new standard will make sure state and local regulators won’t let up and that Louisville can better compete for jobs in a new economy that demands a high quality of life, including a clean environment.

People want to be able to go for a run or bike ride after work in the summer and not have to worry about the latest air quality alert.

The EPA doesn’t get everything right. It can overreach. But it plays a vital role in coal states like Indiana and Kentucky, where elected officials often embrace the coal industry at the expense of the environment and human health.

Recall, for example, when Kentucky’s top environmental regulator, Len Peters, recently questioned the wisdom behind the EPA checking to make sure its air quality standards protect public health every five years, as required by the Clean Air Act.

And when Gov. Steve Beshear called for the EPA to “get off our backs” because of tighter EPA rule making.

Sometimes it takes a personal trainer to be healthy.

source
http://www.courier-journal.com/article/ ... ck_check=1
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