EPA’s New, Strict “Soot” Standard Will Be Challenging for California

EPA’s New, Strict “Soot” Standard Will Be Challenging for California

A new EPA soot regulation will hit California hard. California’s high levels of soot come from diesel-burning transportation on roads and in the ports, which is more difficult to reduce. Soot is considered fine particulate or 2.5 micron or less in size.  The required reductions will be achieved in California isn’t known yet. But they are sure to effect transportation, trucks, ports, trains and industries that depend on these modes of transportation or use diesel as a fuel source.

The new standard aims for a 20% reduction of microscopic soot particles, lowering the annual allowable average from 15 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA estimates that industries are facing costs of approx. $53 million to $350 million annually to be in compliance with the new regulation.

EPA’s move on this topic is considered to be a worrying sign of what is yet to come during the next months, when EPA will most likely set new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, and a variety of pending regulations for industrial boilers, power plants and the coal industry still waiting.

EPA and health professionals argue that the new standard is essential to protect public health and that there is no doubt about the positive effects. E.g., the soot reduction from “diesel vehicles and equipment alone” could reduce the number of premature deaths by up to 40,000 by 2030 and prevent 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness and save $4 billion to $9.1 billion in annual healthcare and related costs.[i]

Industry groups argue that the more stringent standard isn’t necessary, that the existing standard is adequate, and the economic burden on industry will be too great.

The new soot limit results from a lawsuit brought by several East Coast states against the EPA. Soot pollution in the East is largely from coal-fired plants.

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