API official urges rejection of EPA's new particulate matter limits

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new particulate matter (PM) limits, which the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing, should be rejected, an American Petroleum Institute official urged.

“We support keeping the standards where they are, not only because there is no compelling evidence for changing them, but because our current emission control programs implementing the existing standards are working and continue to reduce pollution levels,” said Howard Feldman, API regulatory and scientific affairs director.

“With the control measures already proposed or being implemented under the current regulations, we could expect to reduce particulate pollution by more than 1 million tons annually—about 20%—in the next couple of years, and make steady progress further reducing the number of Americans living in areas exceeding the current standards,” he maintained.

EPA has found that PM concentrations under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards fell by 27% nationwide from 2000 to 2010, Feldman said. “As a result, more than three fourths of Americans today live in areas where air quality meets or exceeds today’s standards,” he said.

Benefits of tightening the existing standards would be questionable, according to Feldman. “When PM standards were proposed in 2006, EPA reviewed thousands of studies,” he said. “It decided not to change the annual primary PM 2.5 standard due to the uncertainty of the science.”

EPA reviewed 300 new epidemiological studies in its latest proposal, he continued. “The results of these studies are mixed; some show adverse effects and others do not,” Feldman said. “What’s puzzling is that EPA’s own analysis supporting its new proposal failed to adequately address the possibility that health impacts observed in some of the epidemiological studies could be traced to another cause or causes.”

The proposed regulation potentially could adversely affect exploration and production, as well as refining, operations, he warned.

“We’re telling EPA that it shouldn’t tighten standards now when we’re trying to add jobs and produce more energy,” Feldman said. “Clearly, the major areas where our industry operates would be affected. It would be more difficult to get permits.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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