By Jeryl L. Olson, Eric E. Boyd, and Craig B. Simonsen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, in an impressive almost 800 page publication, finalized its fine particulate matter rule to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particles (PM2.5) to 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). 78 Fed. Reg. 3086 (January 15, 2013). The EPA also has retained the existing standards for coarse particles (PM10). The NAAQS are standards that apply to all outside air in the U.S. The states will now need to adopt rules so that the air in each state attains and maintains compliance with the standards.

According to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the rule, which was proposed in June 2012, “is based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. It also follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the public, health organizations, and industry, and after considering more than 230,000 public comments.”

EPA concurrently published this map which illustrates states and counties that currently do not meet the 12.0 µg/m3 standard.

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In response to this massive new rule, the National Association of Manufacturers released a statement: “the EPA’s actions today will only further dampen manufacturers’ already dismal outlook for 2013. Manufacturers’ optimism has plummeted since the beginning of the year due to the poor business environment, according to the latest National Association of Manufacturers/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers. It is time that the EPA works with manufacturers on sensible regulations.”