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EPA Proposes Areas Not Meeting New Particle Air Pollution Standard in New Jersey

Release Date: 06/29/2004
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(#04107) New York, N.Y. -- In an important step toward cleaning up the nation's air, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today identified areas in New Jersey that it believes are not meeting new health-based air standards for small particle pollution. In a letter sent to the state, EPA responded to New Jersey's recommendation of which areas are not meeting the new standard. Fine particles, or PM 2.5, have been shown to cause premature mortality, aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions and contribute to cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and arrhythmia. EPA is recommending that the state's suggested boundaries of areas that are not attaining the new standards be expanded.

"Fine particle pollution represents one of the most significant barriers to clean air facing our nation today," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "EPA and New Jersey share the same goal healthy air for all New Jerseyans. Today's action is an important step in the process to reach that goal."

In a February 13, 2004 letter to EPA, New Jersey recommended that Hudson, Union, Middlesex, Bergen, Monmouth, Essex, Mercer, Morris, Somerset and Passaic Counties be designated as "non-attainment" with PM 2/5 standards. EPA is proposing to add Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties to that list. This proposed expansion is based on EPA's judgment that pollution sources in these counties have potential to contribute to the violations in other counties. In making this recommendation, EPA considered numerous factors, including their proximity to the areas not meeting the standard, traffic and commuting patterns and a projected growth rate. The state will have at least 120 days to comment on EPA's recommendation. EPA will work closely with New Jersey to ensure that the designations are made properly and that plans are in place to meet the standard.

EPA has a comprehensive air pollution control strategy that will help states meet the new PM 2.5 standards. The Agency has already put into effect regulations dramatically reducing pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles, diesel trucks and buses. The Agency recently finalized regulations to control pollution from nonroad diesels, such as construction and farm equipment. In addition, EPA has proposed a Clean Air Interstate rule that will reduce and permanently cap emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from power plants. Both of these pollutants contribute to the formation of PM 2.5.

Once the PM 2.5 non-attainment designations are finalized, states will be required to prepare a comprehensive clean air plan to meet the new air pollution standard. These plans are due to EPA in early 2008. Unlike recent designations of areas not meeting the tough new smog standard, PM 2.5 designations are not classified according to severity. 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 for a specific area mean that the standard cannot be met by 2010. States will be allowed flexibility to choose 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.

PM 2.5 refers to particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter, or about 1/30th the width of a human hair. These particles can either be emitted directly or can form in the atmosphere. These particles have been scientifically linked to serious health effects. Their ability to be suspended in air for long periods of time and their ability to lodge in the lung makes them a public health threat. EPA first adopted new standards to regulate PM 2.5 in 1997, along with continuing to regulate particles measuring 10 microns in diameter and a new, more protective standard for ground level ozone or smog. The progress in implementing these standards was hindered by litigation. The Supreme Court upheld the standards. In 2003, all legal challenges were addressed, allowing EPA to move forward with putting the standards into action.

EPA is required to make final decisions by December 31, 2004. EPA plans to make its decision in mid November in order to meet clean air goals as soon as possible. For more information about PM 2.5 pollution and today's proposed designations, visit