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Media Advisory, June 3, 2010

Contact: Kevin Bundy, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 313

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on
EPA Revisions to Sulfur Dioxide Pollution Limits

SAN FRANCISCO— The Environmental Protection Agency today finalized long-overdue revisions to national pollution standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) under the federal Clean Air Act. SO2 is a dangerous pollutant commonly found in emissions from industrial sources like coal-fired power plants. Strong scientific evidence links SO2 exposure to respiratory illnesses and injury, especially among people suffering from asthma and other lung diseases. The new rule resulted from a successful lawsuit — brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Valley Watch, and concerned individuals — that required EPA to update the SO2 standard in accordance with current science and the Clean Air Act.

Today’s rule limits one-hour maximum concentrations of SO2 in the atmosphere to 75 parts per billion (ppb), and thus provides a new level of protection against short-term pollution “spikes” known to cause respiratory distress. However, the rule rejected a more protective hourly limit and jettisoned previous standards limiting 24-hour and annual concentrations, despite several real-world studies showing that longer-term exposures to low levels of SO2 may cause or worsen respiratory illness. EPA also adopted a new approach to modeling and monitoring the specific impacts of SO2 emissions, which often are highest downwind of large facilities like power plants.

In response, Center attorney Kevin Bundy issued the following statement:

“EPA today took a major step forward in protecting the environment and public health by adopting short-term limits on sulfur dioxide pollution. Unfortunately, by rejecting a lower threshold for pollution concentrations and by revoking existing protective standards, the rule does not provide a full margin of safety for asthma sufferers and others vulnerable to air pollution. Using the Clean Air Act’s proven and successful programs, EPA can and should take further steps to protect the air we all breathe from this dangerous pollutant.”

The Center for Biological Diversity’s written comments on EPA’s proposed rule can be viewed here.

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