The Environmental Protection Agency has moved to retain the current daily standard and revoke the annual standard on coarse particle pollution caused from traffic, construction, demolition, mining and other industries. The action drew criticism from two sides--the utility industry and manufacturers say the agency's regulation is too tough and environmental groups contend the rule isn't strict enough.

Under the final rule, which EPA announced on Sept. 21, an area will meet the new 24-hour standard for coarse particles--known as PM10--when it does not exceed a level of 150 micrograms per cubic meter more than once a year during a three-year period.

EPA said it revoked the annual PM10 standard of 50 micrograms per cubic meter because "available evidence" does not suggest a link between long-term exposure to coarse particles at current levels and health problems.

The agency did tighten the daily standard for fine particle pollution, or PM2.5, to 35 micrograms per cubic meter, down from 65 micrograms, but kept the annual PM2.5 standard at the current 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

EPA said these standards are likely to find an additional 32 counties out of attainment. The agency will designate which areas are outside the new rules in November 2009.

The rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. States will have until April 2015 to adhere to the new regulation, but EPT says that deadline could be extended by five years.

EPA was under a court order to update its particle pollution rules after failing to meet the five-year update requirement under the Clean Air Act.

Some industry groups criticized EPA's new rule. Joe Stanko, counsel for the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, an electric-utility group, said, "While the standards will continue to improve air quality, the costs to attain EPA's tighter standard will be significant."

He also says that the number of counties expected to be judged in "non-attainment" of the particulate rule is expected to increase. Stanko says that having that designation "makes it significantly harder for communities to attract new businesses, expand existing plants, or make infrastructure improvements."

John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, compared the PM 2.5 rule change to moving "the goal posts during the middle of the game, creating investment and business uncertainty."

Not all industry comments were negative. Joy Wilson, president of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, called EPA's decision to keep the current daily standard "good news for aggregate producers nationwide." Wilson says that her group's research "has demonstrated that the aggregates industry is not a major source of coarse particulate matter."�

Environmental groups argued that EPA's new rule is too weak. Alice McKeown, air analyst for the Sierra Club, said, "This decision goes against the combined recommendations of over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies, medical and health groups and the EPA's own independent science advisers. It was clearly based on political science, not medical science."