WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed new air quality regulations for sulfur dioxide emissions, which come mostly from power plants and industrial facilities, expecially those that burn coal.
The proposed rules would set a one-hour standard for concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere between 50 and 100 parts per billion (ppb).
These one-hour standards would replace existing regulations that limit sulfur concentrations to 140 ppb measured over 24 hours and an annual average of 30 ppb.
EPA said the proposed rules would “better protect public health by reducing people’s exposure to high short-term concentrations of S02.”
Fossil fuel-based power plants and other industrial facilities are the main sources sulfur dioxide emissions. Compliance with the new rules will cost industries $1.8 billion to $6.8 billion, the EPA said.
The existing rules, which have been around since the 1970s, essentially have a loophole that allows high levels of sulfur dioxide over short periods of time, said Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell.
“New studies have shown that people get sicker when they’re exposed to high levels of sulfur dioxide for a very short time period,” O’Donnell said.
He said his group will push EPA to set the standard around the 50 ppb level.
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days. The agency is also accepting comments on an alternative limit for the 1-hour standard of up to 150 ppb. At this level, the agency would retain the current 24 hour standard.
Delaware Senator Tom Carper applauded the agency’s proposal.
“Current federal standards simply fail to protect public health,” said Carper, a Democrat, in a statement.
“I believe this EPA proposal for a stringent, short-term SO2 standard will lower the health risks for millions of Americans with asthma,” Carper added. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio)
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