Testimony of Bonnie Holmes-Gen: Support for Stronger National Ambient Ozone Standard
(February 2, 2015)
Good morning. My name is Bonnie Holmes-Gen and I am Senior Director for Air Quality and Climate Change with the American Lung Association in California. I am pleased to speak today in support of strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone. As you heard earlier today from Dr. Robert Sawyer, the Chair of our American Lung Association in California Advocacy Committee, ozone harms health and the Clean Air Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards that protect health for everyone. In California, with the dirtiest air in the country, the added health protection is especially important. Everyone, including children, seniors, people suffering from lung and heart disease and people in all communities have a right to clean, healthy air.
You have an opportunity to save thousands of lives across the country by adopting a stronger standard that will drive stronger air pollution clean-up efforts. We have testified before you before about the importance of adopting the most health protective standard. Back in 2010 we gave testimony similar to what you are hearing today, yet people continue to suffer and the situation has become more urgent. We need you to act now.
The Clean Air Act requires the standards be set at levels that do not harm health, and include an adequate margin of safety. This clear intent of Congress has been affirmed by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. Now in this current review, your agency has the opportunity to set the right standard at 60 ppb over 8 hours and move quickly to implement the standard.
You will hear opponents say that economic considerations should be placed before the public’s health and make outrageous claims about the costs of cleaning the air. But the law is clear that the standard must be based solely on one question: at what level does ozone harm health? The public has a right to know the answer to this question.
Evidence has continued to mount about the health dangers posed by ozone below the existing standard. These health dangers impact everyone, even healthy adults, but especially children and individuals with compromised lung health. Newer evidence warns that inhaling dangerous smog worsens heart disease, causes harm to the central nervous system, and increases the risk of low birth weight in newborns in addition to worsening lung illnesses. Unfortunately, ozone pollution can also lead to early deaths. You will hear many stories today about the personal effects of living in polluted air from brave individuals who deal with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions as part of their daily lives.
The benefits of a stronger standard are clear. A standard set at 60 ppb will prevent up to 7,900 premature deaths, 1.8 million asthma attacks in children and 1.9 million missed school days each year. It certainly will provide essential health protection. There is a strong scientific consensus. The law is unambiguous. EPA must adopt the standard that protects the health of the public – with an adequate margin of safety. Therefore EPA must act now.
Striving for clean, healthy air is personal for me and my family. My husband and I have two active children that play soccer constantly for club and school teams, and these activities keep us constantly on the run. However, my son Lucas has seasonal asthma that sometimes slows him down on the field. When his asthma kicks in, he has to gasp for breath until he can get to his inhaler. It is a scary feeling for him and I don’t want him to have to experience this any longer. I worry about him during hot smoggy days because I know smog can make his asthma worse. The Clean Air Act requires that the ozone standard protect all children whose lungs are still growing and developing.
In California, we have many tools in place to help meet strong new standards. We have cleaner cars and fuels, cleaner power plants, and additional plans to clean up carbon pollution and all climate pollutants and we are moving forward to transition away from petroleum dependence to both meet federal air quality standards and our climate goals.
In closing, please remember that setting a standard of 60 parts per billion will provide more certainty and cleaner air. Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Ozone Review Panel – 20 esteemed and independent scientists – looked at the evidence from 2,000 studies. These scientists have unanimously concluded that EPA must set a standard between 60 and 70 ppb. They wrote, “the recommended lower bound of 60 ppb would certainly offer more public health protection than levels of 70 ppb or 65 ppb and would provide an adequate margin of safety.”
On behalf of the American Lung Association, I urge you to follow the law and the science, and set standards that will protect the lives of all residents of California and decrease health emergencies and health care costs faced by residents every day. A standard of 60 ppb will help everyone breathe easier in California and across the country.