Late last week, the US EPA issued a proposed new rule that would tighten the air quality standards on the finest particulates (PM2.5). These particulates are the ones less than 2.5 microns in size or the ones that when inhaled go deepest into a person’s lungs. The new rule was issued under a court order and will have a somewhat limited public comment period. The expected final rule date will not be until after the election, sometime in December if all goes according to the proposal.
The new rule reduced the PM2.5 or PMfine from 15ug /m to 12-13ug/m for an annual standard. They left the 24 hr standard and the PM10 standard unchanged. These National Ambient Air Quality Standars are the measure of healthy and unhealthy air in the US and are the level by which emitters are judged. In addition to the modification of the level of dust in the air directly, they also introduced a new standard that deals with visibility. This is specifically designed to control haze. While not saying it directly, the visibility standards seem to be pointed at the national forests and parks such as the Great Smokey Mountains etc.
After a meeting I had with the Georgia EPD and looking at maps for Georgia only, I felt a lot better. We were presented a map with the current PM2.5 data and although a monitor in an rural area of the state exceeded the NAAQS if it is set at 12ug/m EPD officials told us that they have already put measures in place that should bring the PM2.5 down and would not have to make any changes to their current regulations. If those measures didn’t seem to be working, there were several levels of control they would be looking at far before looking at minor permits and agriculture.
Over the next several months, organizations will have the opportunity to make comments on the proposed rule and the final rule will be issued. The states will also be looking at the visibility standard as well as their monitors to see how these things will affect their permits. As we move forward, we will be writing more about this and we will do our best to present the impact, if any, to your operations.