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WASHINGTON — After the White House intervened, the Environmental Protection Agency last week weakened a rule on airborne lead standards at the last minute so that fewer polluters would have their emissions monitored.
The EPA on Oct. 16 announced that it would dramatically reduce the highest acceptable amount of airborne lead from 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter to 0.15 micrograms. It was the first revision of the standard since EPA set it 30 years ago.
However, a close look at documents publicly available, including e-mails from the EPA to the White House Office of Management and Budget, reveal that the OMB objected to the way the EPA had determined which lead-emitting battery recycling plants and other facilities would have to be monitored.
EPA documents show that until the afternoon of Oct. 15, a court-imposed deadline for issuing the revised standard, the EPA proposed to require a monitor for any facility that emitted half a ton of lead or more a year.
The e-mails indicate that the White House objected, and in the early evening of Oct. 15 the EPA set the level at 1 ton a year instead.
According to EPA documents, 346 sites have emissions of half a ton a year or more. Raising the threshold to a ton reduced the number of monitored sites by 211, or more than 60 percent.