EPA Sets New Ozone Standards Criticized By Both Environmental & Business Advocates

In an October 1, 2015, press release, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced stronger air quality standards for ground-level ozone.  Ozone can cause health issues, particularly in children, the elderly, those with breathing issues like asthma. EPA stated the public health benefits of the updated standards are estimated at $2.9 to 5.9 billion annually by 2025, outweighing the estimated annual costs of $1.4 billion. EPA is also extending the ozone monitoring “season” in 32 states and the District of Columbia.  From the press release:

Based on extensive scientific evidence on effects that ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, has on public health and welfare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strengthened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from 75 ppb to protect public health. The updated standards will reduce Americans’ exposure to ozone, improving public health protection, particularly for at risk groups including children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the air.

“Put simply – ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today’s action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children’s health.” …

Local communities, states, and the federal government have made substantial progress in reducing ground-level ozone. Nationally, from 1980 to 2014, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent, while the economy has continued to grow. And by 2025, EPA projects that existing rules and programs will bring the vast majority of the remaining counties into compliance.  …

To ensure that people are alerted when ozone reaches unhealthy levels, EPA is extending the ozone monitoring season for 32 states and the District of Columbia. This is particularly important for at-risk groups, including children and people with asthma because it will provide information so families can take steps to protect their health on smoggy days. …

The Clean Air Act provides states with time to meet the standards. Depending on the severity of their ozone problem, areas would have until between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards.

EPA Ground Level Ozone Webpage

EPA Video Announcement of New Ozone Standards

As reported in an October 1 Baltimore Sun article, the EPA’s new ozone standards have drawn criticism from both sides of the debate, with environmental and health advocates arguing that the new standards do not adequately address health concerns while business and industry leaders are concerned about their economic and job impact. From the article:

“It will allow thousands of deaths, hospitalizations, asthma attacks and missed school and work days that would be prevented by the much stronger standard supported by medical experts,” said David Baron, a lawyer with Earthjustice. He predicted that activists would go to court again to challenge the limit as inadequate to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. …

Congressional Democrats, including Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, expressed disappointment. Cardin called the announcement “a missed opportunity for the EPA to do more to protect the health of millions of Americans.” …

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the standard “will inflict pain on companies that build things in America — and destroy job opportunities for American workers.” …

Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress, called the move “yet another example of government overreach.”

“These new standards are technologically difficult to achieve and will burden many across the country with new and unexpected costs; killing jobs and weakening the economy,” the Baltimore County lawmaker said in a statement.

The article also stated that Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles believes Maryland can meet the new ozone standard without great difficulty due to the State’s pending emission limits on power plants and new federal limits on vehicle emissions.

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