Federal Standards - Ozone


Ozone Pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that can lead to much cleaner, healthier air across our nation. The Agency has recommended lowering the nation’s official limit on the amount of ozone considered safe to breathe, called the national ambient air quality standard. Ozone, often known as smog, is one of the most dangerous gases polluting our communities—and the most widespread.

The EPA is following the overwhelming evidence that our nation needs a stronger ozone standard. EPA owes this protection to the millions who live where ozone smog sends children to the emergency room and shortens the lives of people with chronic lung disease. The American Lung Association urges the Agency to adopt the strongest, most protective standard when they make the final decision in August 2010.

Ozone air pollution threatens the health of infants, children, seniors, and people with asthma and other lung diseases. For them, smog-polluted air can lead to breathing problems, aggravated asthma, emergency room and hospital visits and even an early death. Fortunately, the benefits of cleaner air are also clear—fewer children with asthma will go to the emergency room, fewer adults with lung disease will die from breathing polluted air.

Millions of children, older adults and people with chronic lung diseases need EPA to defend them. We urge EPA to set the final standard where it provides the greatest safeguards to the most people. The final ozone smog standard is too critical to the health of millions to do otherwise.

Will our economy suffer by cleaning up air pollution?
EPA designating an area non attainment does not destroy the economy: it lets the public know that the air is dirty and requires states and cities to write local clean up plans to reduce pollution. These plans are tailored to the local circumstances in each community.

Communities in non-attainment have continued to grow, despite having failed to meet the standard. Population, economy, miles traveled have all continued to grow nationwide as the air has gotten progressively cleaner.This EPA chart shows that economic progress continues as we have cut air pollution by 60 percent since 1970.

Communities do not lose transportation funding when they are in non-attainment..—they only risk the funding if they decide not to try to meet the standard by failing to develop a plan. If states work in good faith to write a plan and reduce pollution they are not subject to sanctions like losing highway funds. Again, cities across the nation have been under these same requirements and have managed to keep the federal highway dollars flowing and have reduced the pollution that their citizens breathe!

Is this standard too tight to meet?
Rules already on the books to clean up cars, trucks and big industrial sourceswill help many communities reduce pollution and help meet the new standard.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve had to stretch clean up air pollution—we’ve successfully done it before.It will take additional efforts in many communities to meet the new standard, but we can do it— with new cleaner technology and public input. States will have time to plan and adopt new tools to help us.

EPA needs to do more, too, including adopting new rules to put tighter controls on coal-fired power plants and industrial boilers—both produce far too much pollution. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air; that is the promise of the Clean Air Act.

What about pollution that comes from other regions?
Air pollution needs to be reduced to levels that don’t harm health. When EPA sets the standard, by law it must base that decision solely on what it takes to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. In other words, the only legitimate concern is the impact on human health. Once the standard is set, then comes the time to figure out how to clean up the ozone that is blown in from somewhere else. We’ve had to do that before, tackling ozone blown from the Midwest to the Northeast states, for example. As for naturally occurring ozone, EPA’s independent scientists did review that issue. They concluded that we were no where close to natural levels of ozone being a factor in meeting the standard.

Does it cost too much to clean up air pollution?
The question before EPA is what level of ozone is needed to protect public health. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2002 that protecting public health is the only consideration—the cost to clean up cannot be considered. When states write clean up plans, they look at costs to determine the most efficient clean up strategies.

The health costs--the human toll of air pollution--is huge – illness, emergency room visits, asthma attacks and even premature death. The benefits of cleaning up air pollution have proven time and time again to be overwhelmingly greater than the costs. In fact, each year the White House analyzes the costs and benefits of such regulatory requirements. Each year, EPA’s air pollution regulations total benefits that outweigh the costs by as much as 40 to 1. What isn’t usually seen are the huge costs associated with having people breathe polluted air, costs that are especially borne by children and teens, seniors, and people with chronic lung diseases. We have 37 years of experience to show that cleaning up air pollution doesn’t hurt economic growth.

EPA analyzes this for their Air Trends reports. See the chart athttp://www.epa.gov/air/airtrends/. 

Letter from Rogene Henderson, Chair, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, to Stephen Johnson, EPA Administrator. March 26, 2007. Posted at http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-07-002.pdf. 

White House Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Draft 2007 Report on the Costs and Benefits of Federal Regulations. March 2007. Posted athttp://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/regpol-reports_congress.html.