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Ratcheting Down Ozone

EPA: Proposal would strengthen national air quality standard

by Cheryl Hogue
January 18, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 3

Credit: Dreamstime
Credit: Dreamstime

EPA is proposing to tighten the nation’s air quality standard for ground-level ozone, a move that could carry a big price tag for industry while delivering large health benefits to Americans.

The proposed standard would limit ground-level ozone to between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm, strengthening the current standard of 0.075 ppm set by EPA in 2008 under the Bush Administration.

EPA estimates that the proposal would cost between $19 billion and $90 billion to implement and would yield health benefits of between $13 billion and $100 billion.

The proposed standard, issued on Jan. 7, is identical to the range that the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in 2006 said would provide an adequate margin of protection for millions of people susceptible to respiratory illnesses.

“Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long-overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson says.

Endorsing the plan are the American Lung Association and other health and environmental groups.

“If EPA follows through, it will mean significantly cleaner air and better health protection,” says Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group.

Many industry groups are opposing the proposed standard, saying it will be too expensive to meet. “There is absolutely no basis for EPA to propose changing the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA administrator in 2008,” the American Petroleum Institute says.

If finalized, the proposed standard would require state and local regulators to clamp down on ozone-forming emissions from industry and vehicle traffic.

“State and local air quality officials are fully aware of the daunting challenges implementation of such new standards will pose,” says S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. “However, as stewards of the air that citizens of this nation breathe, we stand ready to face, and overcome, those challenges.”

EPA has scheduled three public hearings in February on the proposed rule.



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