A letter signed by one Democratic and five Republican senators said the EPA rule would "impose significant new economic burdens on many communities, hurting workers and their families just as they are struggling to overcome difficult economic times."
The letter cited EPA data showing that air quality in the United States is at its highest level in 30 years — a sign that the current standard is working, the senators said. The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Michael Lee of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
A letter signed by 56 House Democrats said the new standards will mean fewer hospital trips for millions of people and billions of dollars saved.
"Morally and fiscally, this is a no-brainer," said the letter, initiated by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. He and other supporters said the new standards were particularly important in urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles, where soot and smog and can make breathing difficult.
The letter cited a report issued last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that racial minorities are more likely to live in areas where air pollution exceeds national standards.
Jackson and other administration officials said the new rule was based on a rigorous scientific review. Only 66 of more than 3,000 U.S. counties would fail to meet the proposed standard, which takes effect early next year.
The EPA said it would start designating counties that fail to meet the new soot standards as soon as December 2014, but would give states up to five years to meet the revised standard.
All but seven counties in the United States — all in California — are projected to meet the new standard by 2020 with no additional actions needed beyond compliance with existing and pending rules set by the EPA, EPA officials said. The counties are Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Bernardino and Tulare.
Jackson and other officials said they will work with states and counties to ensure they can meet the new standards without penalties, including loss of federal transportation money.
The Obama administration had sought to delay the new soot standards until after the November election, but a federal judge ordered officials to act sooner, and the administration released a proposed rule in June.
EPA soot rule: www.epa.gov/pm/actions.html
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