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EPA eyes stringent air quality standards

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose Wednesday more stringent air quality standards for ground-level ozone, the main culprit in smog, sources said.

Under a court-ordered deadline of Monday to release its proposal, the agency could propose a National Ambient Air Quality Standard between 65 and 70 parts per billion concentration of ozone, and take comment on standards within a 60- to 75-parts-per-billion range, sources familiar with the matter said.

That would compare with the current level of 75 ppb set under then-President George W. Bush in 2008 The EPA would have to finalize the rule by October 2015. The agency declined to comment The proposal, which will apply not only to power plants but to cars and oil and gas facilities, is expected to face opposition from industry groups.

The tougher standards would be closer to the proposal drafted in 2011 by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, which was withdrawn by President Obama before its release because of concerns about regulatory costs during a time of economic recovery.

Although Obama had directed the EPA to come up with a new proposal, the agency did not take action, prompting the American Lung Association and green groups Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council to sue and get a court-ordered deadline.


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