Majority of voters support tighter soot standard — Lung Association poll

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012

More than six in 10 registered voters support a U.S. EPA proposal to tighten air standards on small particles that come from power plants, boilers and car tailpipes, according to a new poll from the American Lung Association.

The group found broad bipartisan support tightening the national ambient air quality standard, or NAAQS, for fine particles, commonly referred to as PM 2.5 or soot.

As part of a legal settlement with several states and groups including the Lung Association, EPA in June proposed tightening the current standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over a year to between 12 and 13 micrograms. It is taking public comment on a standard as low as 11 micrograms and is expected to finalize the highly anticipated proposal by Dec. 14 (Greenwire, June 15).

The poll, conducted by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, found 62 percent of those surveyed favor the tighter standards. It also found that more than eight in 10 Democrats back the proposal, as well as 57 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.

“The survey clearly indicates that Americans strongly back the EPA taking action now to limit the amount of soot released by oil refineries, power plants and other industrial facilities,” said Missy Egelsky of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “In fact, voters overwhelmingly believe that stronger safeguards against air pollution provide reasonable, common-sense changes that will protect Americans’ health from the harmful effects of soot.”

Egelsky’s firm surveyed 942 registered voters Nov. 14-18. The poll has a margin of error of 3.19 percentage points.

The fine particle standard is among the most closely watched rules facing the agency as President Obama enters his second term. Fine particles are associated with a host of health issues, because they can get lodged deeply within lungs. In particular, they can cause asthma and other problems among children.

President George W. Bush’s EPA set tighter standards in 2006, but they were tossed out by a federal court in 2009 because they didn’t do enough to protect public health. The agency then set an October 2011 deadline for a new standard but failed to meet it. That led to a lawsuit from several states and public health advocates, including the American Lung Association.

More than 50 percent of respondents in regions across the country back the proposal, according to the poll, including both men and women.

“This poll affirms that the public is sick of soot and wants EPA to set more protective standards,” said Peter Iwanowicz of the American Lung Association. “The public also does not buy the arguments being made by big polluters and their allies in Congress that this is not the right time to update soot standards and that doing so would be bad for the economy.”