* States will decide how to cut emissions
* Changes to cut health care costs by up to $9 bln/yr-EPA
* Opponents say new rules would be costly to implement
(Adds details, EPA comment)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 The Obama administration on
Friday tightened limits on harmful soot pollution from sources
including power plants, diesel engines and burning wood.
The new standards, which the Environmental Protection Agency
was under court order to finalize, limit annual average soot
emissions by the end of decade to about 12 micrograms per cubic
meter of air from the standard of 15 micrograms set in 1997.
Individual states will be responsible for deciding how to
cut emissions of the fine particulates, which can lodge deep in
the lungs and threaten the elderly, people with heart disease
and children. Health problems associated with the pollution
include premature death, acute bronchitis, and asthma.
"More mothers like me will be able to rest a little easier
knowing that our children and our children's children will have
healthier air to breathe for decades to come," EPA Administrator
Lisa Jackson, who has two sons with asthma, told reporters in a
conference call about the rules.
Industry groups and some lawmakers have complained the soot
standards are too costly. The standards "impose significant new
economic burdens on many communities, hurting workers and their
families," a group of senators including global warming skeptic
Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, and Mary Landrieu, a
Louisiana Democrat, said in a letter on Friday to Jackson.
New power plants, machinery at ports and other industrial
sources of soot could find it hard to get operating permits in
places found in violation of the limits.
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said it
feared the new rule "may be just the beginning of a 'regulatory
cliff'" including forthcoming EPA rules on smog and greenhouse
"EXCITING AND ENERGIZING"
The EPA, however, estimated that by 2030 the soot rules
would prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths and that health care
bills would be cut by $4 billion to $9 billion annually. Costs
on industry to implement the rules would range from $53 million
to $350 million, it said.
The agency said only seven counties, all of them in central
or southern California, are projected to fail to meet the
standard by 2020. The rest of the counties can rely on air
quality standards that have already been finalized to meet the
limits, it said.
Many observers have speculated Jackson could step down from
the EPA next year, after four years fighting Republicans in
Congress. She did not comment on the speculation on the call,
saying only there was still plenty to do at the EPA, work that
is "exciting and energizing."
Her agency is expected to roll out more pollution rules on
power plants, refineries and boilers that were delayed during
the election year.
Environmentalists and health groups applauded the soot
rules, which federal clean air laws require to be reviewed every
Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator from 1993 to
2001, said American innovation has found ways to meet pollution
standards while contributing to new technology and jobs.
"We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and
healthy air and lungs," she said. "We can have both."
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick
and Bob Burgdorfer)