Associated Builders and Contractors has joined a coalition of associations, businesses and petroleum companies to combat the EPA’s efforts to pass more serious air quality standards. The standards would double the stringency of the current acceptable level of “particulate matter,” which is found in wind-blown dust or in combustion by-products like diesel soot, wood smoke, ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate.

According to newly-installed ABC president John Jennings, “ABC, of course, supports improving air quality. But this is not the way to do it. This poorly conceived proposal would cripple not only the construction industry, but the entire U.S. economy as well.” A statement issued by the Senate Republican Policy Committee states that the standards would nearly quadruple the current number of “non-attainment” geographical areas — areas where the level of particulate matter in the air would have to be reduced before work could continue on construction projects, manufacturing and any other activity that would be considered a threat to air quality.

Fran Du Melle, managing director of the American Lung Association, which originally sued the EPA to push it to review its air standards, said “It is time for the EPA to carry out its legal responsibility without further delay to make sure our air is really safe to breathe.” The EPA says the new rules would improve air quality for about 40 million of the 74 million Americans who now breathe polluted air, and prevent 250,00 cases of asthma, 60,000 cases of bronchitis and 9,000 hospital admissions a year.

At press time, ABC is lobbying the EPA to have the Feb. 20 deadline for public comment on the standards extended, while the Lung Association is fighting any extension. “For months the polluters have been lobbying governors, the EPA, the White House and the Congress. They want a delay so they can continue lobbying behind closed doors to destroy these standards,” said Du Melle. Watch for progress on this issue in upcoming issues of PM.