The proposed tightening of federal air quality regulations has sparked bitter debate between businesses and public-health professionals as well as entire regions of the country. At issue are the maximum levels of smog and soot permitted under the 1990 Clean Air Act. Affected industries say the stricter regulations would impose intolerable financial burdens while providing negligible health benefits. Environmentalists and many health professionals say enforcing stricter air standards would save lives at relatively low cost and improve everyone's quality of life. The Environmental Protection Agency must make its final decision on the new standards this summer. Meanwhile, disagreement over the need for new standards is developing into one of the most acrimonious environmental debates in decades.
Smoke billows from an electric generating plant in Pennsylvania
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