Introduction to Air Pollution

AuthorArnold W. Reitze, Jr.
Page 25
Chapter 2:
Introduction to Air Pollution
§1. The Criteria Air Pollutants
ree principal ways exist to control a ir pollution
through laws using the “command-and-control”
approach. e oldest approach involves controlling
air pollution through lawsuits based on case law
interpretations of nuisance or by use of nuisance-
based ordinances and statutes. Today, nuisance laws
are used to control air pollutants not covered by the
comprehensive Clean A ir Act (CAA). Because the
CAA does not provide for tort remedies, individu-
als with personal injuries or property losses from
air pollution can use nuisance laws to recover dam-
ages. For example, odors are a common target of
nuisance laws. Bans on specied pollutant-gener-
ating activities also involve using nuisance-based
land use control laws.
e second approach uses end-of-the-pipe con-
trols usually by ma ndating the use of some version
of best available control technology (BACT). Such
technology controls may also be imposed indi-
rectly through the use of emission limits that force
a source to use a pa rticular technology. e CAA’s
§112 program is a n example of a technology-based
approach that is used to control about 189 haz-
ardous air pollutants (H APs).1 In determining
the stringency of technology-based standards an
important factor is how costs are used to determine
the technology that must be used.
e third approach, which is used by the most
important program under the CAA, is an ambient
air quality approach. Atmospheric air quality goals
are established for each regulated pollutant, known
as criteria pollutants, and are called national ambi-
ent air quality standa rds (NA AQS). A program is
to be developed by each state to lower emissions
1. 42 U.S.C. §7412, CAA §112.
to the atmosphere until the NA AQS are met for
each criteria pollutant. Over time, emission limits
are adjusted to reach and maintain the NAAQS for
each criteria pollutant.
e U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) designated six criteria air pollutants based on
its authority under the 1970 A mendments to the
CAA . ey were particulates, sulfur dioxide (SO2),
nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO),
ozone, and hydrocarbons (HCs). ere still are six
criteria pollutants, but HCs were delisted, and lead
was added. Emissions of HCs a nd volatile organic
compounds (VOCs; a subset of HCs) continue to
be regu lated because they are precursors of ozone
air pollution.
CAA §312 requires EPA to assess t he eects of
the Act on the “public health, economy, and t he
environment of the United States.”2 e rst EPA
§312 report, e Benets and Costs of the Clean Air
Act, 1970 to 1990, was released in October 1997.
Its major conclusion was that the CAA was respon-
sible for a decline of 40% in electric utility SO2
emissions from 1970 to 1990, a 75% reduction of
total particulate emissions from industrial and util-
ity smokestacks, reductions from motor vehicles of
50% for CO, 30% for nitrogen oxide (NOx), 45%
for VOCs, and a near elimination of lead emissions.
e estimated value of these benets ranged from
$5.6 to $49.4 trillion with a mean of $22.2 trillion.
e costs of compliance with the CAA, including
both private- and public-sector costs, totaled $523
billion. Both benets and costs were expressed in
1990 dollars. e benets exceeded costs from
1970 to 1990 by a factor of more than 42.
Each of the NAAQS, discu ssed below, has four
components. e “indicator” denes t he param-
2. Id. §7612, CAA §312.
Page 26 Air Pollution Control and Climate Change Mitigation Law
eter of the substance EPA will measure. Particu-
late matter (PM), for exa mple, uses particle size to
dene the subject of the NA AQS. e “level” spec-
ies the acceptable concentration in the air. e
“averaging time” speci es the time span for which
the pollution concentration in the air wi ll be aver-
aged. Annual or daily levels are commonly used.
e “form” of the NAAQS describes how com-
pliance with level over the averaging time will be
determined. It is common, for example, to specify
that the level will not be exceeded more than one
day per year.3
§1(a). Particulate Matter
Particulates may be emitted directly or can be
formed in t he atmosphere by transformations of
gaseous emissions such as SO2, NOx, and VOCs.
e chemical a nd physical properties of particu-
lates vary with time, meteorology, and source. e
health eects of particulates depend on their size
and chemical makeup. Size determines whether
particulates fall to the ground, stay suspended,
or are capable of being breat hed into the tracheo-
bronchial system. In 1987, EPA established new
standards for PM using a new indicator, PM with
a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10), which
replaced the original measurement factor, total sus-
pended particulates (TSPs).4
Particulates are categorized by size. Total partic-
ulates (TPs) are those of any size that can be mea-
sured in the air. e maximum size of such particles
is about 1,000 microns. A micron is one millionth
of a meter. TSPs are particulates stable enough to
remain in the air and may stay suspended for a year
or more. ey range in size up to 100 microns or
more, although EPA limited TSPs to particles of 45
microns or less in its 1971 par ticulate regulations.5
Particles larger than about 15 microns are not eas-
ily inhaled, but those less than 10 to 15 microns are
considered inhalable particles (IPs). IPs, about the
size of bacteria, are the size the PM10 standa rd aims
to control. For comparison, the smallest grains of
our that can be seen under normal conditions are
in the 50 to 100 micron range. Small particles are
further dierentiated into those between 2.5 and
10 microns, which are called course particulates,
3. American Farm Bureau Fed’n v. EPA, No. 06-1410, slip op. at
7, 39 ELR 20042 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 24, 2009).
4. Revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for
Particulate Matter, 52 Fed. Reg. 24634, 24663 (July 1, 1987).
5. National Primary and Secondary Ambient Air Quality Standards,
36 Fed. Reg. 8186 (Apr. 28, 1971).
and those under 2.5 microns, called ne particu-
lates, which travel a s fa r as the lung parenchyma
during normal breathing and may remain there.
Particles ranging from 0.01 to 0.1 microns are
called ultra ne particles.6
e harm from inhaling particulates may be
physical or chemical. Physica l ha rm results when
particulates settle in the lungs and irritate the
membranes. For example, coal miners may suer
from “black lung,” or anthracosis, which results
from coal dust clogging the lung sacs. Similarly,
textile workers contract “brown lung” from inhal-
ing cotton bers. Chemical harm may occur when
particulates pa ss through the lung membranes
to poison the blood or are carried by the blood
to other organs. is can happen with inha led
lead, cadmium, beryllium, other metals, and cer-
tain organic compounds t hat are associated with
§1(b). Sulfur Dioxide
In the United States, 86.77% of the SO2 emissions
in 2006 were produced from stationary source fuel
combustion. About two-thirds of these SO2 emis-
sions came from electric utilities. e major health
eects from high exposure to SO2 include respira-
tory diseases, alterations in the lungs’ defenses, and
aggravation of existing respiratory a nd ca rdiovas-
cular disease. It also damages trees and agricultural
crops and is a major precursor to acid rain. Further-
more, it impairs visibility and corrodes buildings
and monuments.8
§1(c). Nitrogen Oxides
Oxides of nitrogen usually are formed during high
temperature combustion processes of stationary
sources (especially electric utilities), from auto-
mobile and truck engines, and to a lesser extent
from chemical plant emissions. e transporta-
tion sector was responsible in 2006 for 58.3% of
6. W C. H, A T 6 (1982); R
W  J D. S, P  O A: C-
  H E 18 (1996); D W. M,
E H 12 (1992).
7. See generally U.S. D  H, E, 
W (HEW), O D: A G  T
R (1966).
8. S C. D  ., T E D B
12-2, tbl 12.1 (U.S. Dep’t of Energy (DOE) 27th ed., 2008)
(ORNL-6981); U.S. EPA, L F  N A
Q: S  T T , at 5 (2008) (EPA
454/R-08-006) [hereinafter S  T].

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