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EPA Designates Areas Not Meeting New Fine Particle Air Pollution Standard in New Jersey

Release Date: 12/17/2004
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(#04186) NEW YORK, N.Y. – In an important step toward clean air, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the final designations of the areas that do not meet new health-based air standards for fine particle pollution, commonly known as soot. After considering comments from the state and the public, EPA has designated Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union Counties as areas that are not attaining the standard. Fine particles, or PM 2.5, are 1/30th the size of a human hair and can lodge deeply in the lungs. They have been shown to cause an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 premature deaths, aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions, and contribute to cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and arrhythmias.

“Fine particles are the highest risk air pollutant,” said Acting Regional Administrator, Kathleen C. Callahan. “Our goal is to reduce particle pollution, and we are providing national tools to accomplish that goal. Today’s action is an important step in the process of ensuring clean air for everyone.”

The counties designated today as “non-attainment” areas have either measured violations of the health-based fine particle standard or they have the potential to contribute to measured violations in other counties. In making this decision, EPA considered numerous factors, including the most recent air quality measurements, proximity to areas not meeting the standard, emissions of particles, traffic and commuting patterns and a county’s projected growth rate.

EPA has a comprehensive air pollution control strategy that will help states meet the new PM 2.5 standards. The Agency has already put regulations into effect that are making gasoline-powered vehicles, diesel trucks and buses dramatically cleaner. Earlier this year, the Agency finalized regulations to clean up tailpipe emissions from nonroad diesels, such as construction and farm equipment. In addition, EPA has proposed the Clean Air Interstate Rule to reduce and permanently cap emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from power plants. It will reduce pollutants transported into New Jersey that contribute to the formation of PM 2.5.

States are required to prepare comprehensive clean air plans to meet the new air pollution standard. These plans are due to EPA in early 2008. The states will have until 2010 to meet the PM 2.5 standard in all non-attainment areas. EPA can grant an extension of this deadline until 2015, but only if unique circumstances in a specific area mean that the standard cannot be met by 2010. States will be allowed flexibility in choosing pollution control measures to meet the standard. Some of these local measures could include stricter controls on industry, addition planning requirements for transportation projects, and incentives to reduce reliance on motor vehicles.

EPA first adopted new standards to regulate PM 2.5 in 1997, and continued to regulate particles measuring 10 microns in diameter. The Agency also established a new, more protective standard for ground level ozone or smog. The progress in implementing these standards was hindered by litigation that was resolved when the Supreme Court upheld the standards. In 2002, all legal challenges were addressed, allowing EPA to move forward with putting the standards into action.

For more information about PM 2.5 pollution and today’s proposed designations, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations