CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration on Friday finalized tougher new limits on fine particle air pollution, in its first significant regulatory action since winning re-election last month.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials issued the rule to reduce by 20 percent the allowable levels of dust, smoke and soot in the nation's air.
"These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air."
Fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.
The new standard reduces from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter the national air quality limit for fine particles. States will have to come up with plans to ensure their air meets the standard, but would have until 2020 to come into compliance.
Under a federal court order, the EPA was required to update its standard for the amount of soot allowed, after a 2009 ruling said the agency's limits ignored the advice of its own scientific advisers.
The EPA estimated that health benefits from the new standard would range from $4 billion to more than $9 billion per year, while compliance costs would range from $53 million to $350 million.
Currently, six West Virginia counties do not meet the new standard: Brooke, Cabell, Kanawha, Marion, Marshall and Wood. But the EPA published maps and lists projecting that those counties would meet the standard by the 2020 deadline.
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