EPA Proposes to Strengthen Ozone Standard

Jan 8, 2010

(January 8, 2010) This week, we can all breathe a little easier knowing the Obama administration has proposed a stronger federal standard on ground-level ozone pollution. On Thursday, the EPA announced a proposal to set the primary standard at a level scientists have recommended for years to better protect public health, between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million. The new limits will replace the existing ozone standards (0.075ppm), set by the Bush Administration in early 2008.

Clean Air Carolina applauds the agency for using the latest scientific research in proposing the strictest standard to date for smog-forming pollutants. The current standard falls short of protecting public health and action was desperately needed to help the millions of Americans most at-risk from breathing dirty air – our children, the elderly, outdoor workers and those with heart and lung diseases. Ground-level ozone or smog is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from exacerbating asthma attacks to increasing the risk of premature death from respiratory illnesses. Studies have shown ozone pollution can even be harmful to healthy people who work and play outdoors. Children are at the greatest risk because their lungs are still developing and they are more likely than adults to be active outdoors.

According to the EPA, the new standard would yield benefits between $13 billion and $100 billion in healthcare costs by helping to reduce premature deaths, aggravated asthma, bronchitis cases, hospital and emergency room visits and missed school and/or work days because of ozone-related symptoms. While the stronger limits will benefit the health of thousands of Charlotte residents and millions around the country, the new regulations could cost the region steep fines and the loss of federal highway dollars if compliance is not achieved.  Mecklenburg and seven surrounding counties remain in violation of weaker 1997 and 2008 ozone standards. “It will require an all-hands-on approach,” says David Farren, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Charlotte is already two standards behind the curve and struggling.

As a region that has struggled for decades to meet older ozone standards, having the most accurate health-based standard will force local officials to implement stronger policies that result in cleaner, healthier air quality for our residents.  As one of the fastest growing areas of the country, it’s crucial that our regional leaders and the public at-large work together to make sure a child born today won’t have to wait until they’re in high school to breathe healthy air.

EPA is also proposing to set a separate “secondary” standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees, from ozone damage which can reduce tree growth, damage North Carolina crops and increase plant vulnerabilities to disease.

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Take Action!
Several local and national media outlets are reporting on EPA’s proposal to raise the bar on ozone standards. Many are highlighting the cost stricter limits will impose but few are reporting on the environmental, economic and healthcare costs air pollution has on society. Letter to the editors are needed to raise these critical issues in the media. Please write a letter to the editor responding to one of the articles on this page. If you need help getting started, check out our tips on writing letters to the editor.

Charlotte Observer:
Letters are limited to 150 words and should be sent to [email protected]

News & Observer:
Letters are limited to 200 words and should be sent using this online form: http://www.newsobserver.com/about/newsroom/editor/

New York Times:
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Wall Street Journal:
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