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EPA Seeks Stronger SO2 Standards

Posted on November 18, 2009

For the first time in nearly 40 years, EPA is proposing to strengthen the nation’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) air quality standard. While the largest sources of SO2 are seen as power plants and industrial facilities, the agency also noted that other sources include locomotives and large ships.

The agency announced it is taking comment on a proposal to establish a new national one-hour SO2 standard, between 50 and 100 parts per billion (ppb). This standard is designed to protect against short-term exposures ranging from five minutes to 24 hours. Because the revised standards would be more protective, EPA is proposing to revoke the current 24-hour and annual SO2 health standards.

EPA also is proposing changes to monitoring and reporting requirements for SO2. Monitors would be placed in areas with high SO2 emission levels as well as in urban areas. The proposal also would change the Air Quality Index to reflect the revised SO2 standards. This change would improve states’ ability to alert the public when short-term SO2 levels may affect their health. The proposal addresses only the SO2 primary standards, which are designed to protect public health. EPA will address the secondary standard – designed to protect the public welfare, including the environment – as part of a separate proposal in 2011.

The public comment period will be open for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing on Jan. 5, 2010 in Atlanta. EPA must issue final standards by June 2, 2010. More information about the proposal is available at the EPA website.

For more information: www.epa.gov/air/sulfurdioxide/

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