EPA Tightens Soot Pollution Restrictions

EPA Soot PollutionOn Friday the President tightened limits on harmful soot pollution from sources including power plants, diesel engines and burning wood.  The new standards, which the Environmental Protection Agency was under court order to finalize, limit annual average soot emissions by the end of decade to about 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the standard of 15 micrograms set in 1997.

Individual states will be responsible for choosing how to cut emissions of the fine particulates, which can imbed deep in the lungs and harm the elderly, people with heart disease and children.  Health problems related with the pollution include premature death, acute bronchitis and asthma.  Industry groups and lawmakers have complained the soot standards are too costly.  The standards impose significant new economic burdens on many communities, hurting workers and their families.

The EPA, however, estimated that by 2030 the soot rules would prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths and that health care bills would be cut by $4 billion to $9 billion annually.  Costs on industry to implement the rules would range from $53 million to $350 million, it said.  Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator from 1993 to 2001, said American innovation has found ways to meet pollution standards while contributing to new technology and jobs.  “We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and healthy air and lungs,” she said. “We can have both.”

Housing Market Making a Comeback

Housing MarketHome sales rebounded to the strongest level in five years in 2012, as home building bounced back to levels not seen since early in the recession. Near record low mortgage rates, rising home prices and a drop in foreclosures have combined to bring buyers back to the market.  Experts forecast that there will be just under 1 million housing starts this year roughly matching the 28% rise in home building in 2012.

Many Analytics are forecasting a 50% rise both this year and next year, which it estimates will create more than 1 million new jobs.  Sales are soaring because a combination of strong market fundamentals near record low mortgage rates, lower unemployment and a rebound in home prices, all of which are bringing in buyers into the market who had been waiting for it to hit bottom. The mortgage rates and years of depressed home prices have also combined to create the most affordable housing market on record.  Many realtors are predicting strong sales should continue into 2013 and beyond. It has a forecast for 5.1 million existing home sales this year, and 5.4 million next year.