Carper Praises New, Stronger EPA National Air Quality Standard For Sulfur Dioxide

WASHINGTON – Today Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subcommittee praised the Environmental Protection Agency’s issue of a final new health standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2).


 The new one-hour SO2 health standard is set at 75 parts per billion (ppb), a level designed to protect against short-term exposures ranging from five minutes to 24 hours. The EPA is revoking the current 24-hour and annual SO2 health standards because the science indicates that short-term exposures are of greatest concern and the existing standards would not provide additional health benefits. 


"I applaud EPA’s actions to tighten the clean air standard for sulfur dioxide – this is a step in the right direction to protect public health," said Sen. Carper.  "Today’s new standard means that states will need to make additional pollution cuts to improve air quality. Unfortunately, states don’t have every tool at their disposal to make that happen.  I believe we need new clean air legislation to help states meet this new standard – federal legislation like my three-pollutant bill that tightens the national emissions cap on the largest national sulfur dioxide emitter, fossil-fuel power plants.   Mandating specific cuts to power plants will help states meet these new standards more successfully."


SO2 is a dangerous air pollutant that is emitted when sulfur-containing fuels such as coal, oil or diesel are burned. Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory difficulties, putting children and the elderly, in particular, at risk. The greatest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the United States comes from fossil-fueled power plants. The Acid Rain Program, established in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, is a national program aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants. 


Over the past decade, Sen. Carper has fought to reduce SO2 pollution along with the dangerous emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide through various legislative efforts, including the current climate bill debate in Congress. The senator is working on a three-pollutant bill with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and with eleven other cosponsors that would reduce SO2, NOx and mercury emissions from fossil-fuel power plants.