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Faced with a court-ordered deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized more stringent rules for National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Pollution (PM2.5), more commonly known as soot.

The new standard lowers the standard from 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air down to 12 micrograms, and counties must meet the standard by 2020 or face penalties. The EPA’s new standard will be expensive economically, especially to those states and counties facing nonattainment, and it ignores the improvements in air quality made with the current standard.

Further, the rushed, court-ordered decision has a weak scientific underpinning, and changes to the monitoring requirements could place even more areas in the United States out of attainment, inflicting great economic harm in the process.

One of the ways local economies in nonattainment can reach attainment is to have less economic activity, particularly less manufacturing. Just the fear of being in nonattainment and facing financial penalties and tighter regulations would keep businesses away from those economic regions. A 2011 study by economists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Chicago found that the productivity of existing plants in nonattainment areas declines when compared to the productivity of manufacturers in complying areas, which has significant effects on future firm location as well as expansion.

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