EPA Issues First New NO2 Standard in 35 years

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Monday announced a new national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This new one-hour standard will protect Americans from peak short-term exposures, which primarily occur near major roads. Short-term exposures to NO2 have been linked to impaired lung function and increased respiratory infections, especially in people with asthma.

“This new one-hour standard is designed to protect the air we breathe and reduce health threats for millions of Americans. For the first time ever, we are working to prevent short-term exposures in high risk NO2 zones like urban communities and areas near roadways,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The agency set the new one-hour standard for NO2 at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). EPA also is retaining the existing annual average standard of 53 ppb. NO2 is formed from vehicle, power plant and other industrial emissions, and contributes to the formation of fine particle pollution and smog. Earlier this month, EPA proposed to tighten the nation’s smog standards to protect the health of all Americans, especially children.

EPA is establishing new monitoring requirements in urban areas that will measure NO2 levels around major roads and across the community. Monitors must be located near roadways in cities with at least 500,000 residents. Larger cities and areas with major roadways will have additional monitors. Community-wide monitoring will continue in cities with at least 1 million residents.

Working with the states, EPA will site at least 40 monitors in locations to help protect communities that are susceptible and vulnerable to elevated levels of NO2.

EPA expects to identify or designate areas not meeting the new standard, based on the existing community-wide monitoring network, by January 2012. New monitors must begin operating no later than January 1, 2013. When three years of air quality data are available from the new monitoring network, EPA intends to redesignate areas as appropriate.

Associated Press coverage can be read at the link below.

In Other EPA News…

EPA last week announced a new policy to increase the public’s access to information on chemicals. Starting immediately, EPA has announced its intention to reject a certain type of confidentiality claim, known as Confidential Business Information (CBI), on the identity of chemicals. The chemicals that will be affected by this action are those that are submitted to EPA with studies that show a substantial risk to people’s health and the environment and have been previously disclosed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Inventory.

“Assuring the safety of chemicals is one of Administrator Jackson’s top priorities for EPA’s future,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “The American people are entitled to transparent, accessible information on chemicals that may pose a risk to their health or the environment. We will continue taking steps that increase transparency and assure the safety of chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies.”

Under TSCA, companies may claim a range of sensitive, proprietary information as CBI. Under Section 8(e) of TSCA, companies that manufacture, process, or distribute chemicals are required to immediately provide notice to EPA if they learn that a chemical presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. The Section 8(e) reports are made available on EPA’s Web site. However, previously, companies would routinely claim confidentiality for the actual identity of the chemical covered by the Section 8(e) submission, so the public posting of the information would not include the name of the chemical. The new policy announced today ends this practice for chemicals on the public portion of the TSCA Inventory.

In the coming months, EPA said it intends to announce additional steps to further increase transparency of chemical information. 

Westar Energy $500 Million Clean Air Settlement

Westar Energy (NYSE: WR) has agreed to spend approximately $500 million to significantly reduce harmful air pollution from a Kansas power plant and pay a $3 million civil penalty, under a settlement to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, the EPA announced. As part of the settlement, Westar will also spend $6 million on environmental mitigation projects.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Kansas, resolves violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements at the company’s Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kansas.

On Monday, Westar Energy, Inc. announced the acquisition of development rights for a new 500-MW wind farm in Kansas. 

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