The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the strictest health standards to date for smog yesterday. The agency is proposing to set the “primary” standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. EPA is also proposing to set a separate “secondary” standard intended to protect plants and trees from damage occurring from repeated ozone exposure.
In September 2009, the EPA announced that the agency would reconsider the existing ozone standards, set at 0.075 ppm in March 2008. As part of its reconsideration, EPA conducted a review of the science that guided the 2008 decision, including more than 1,700 scientific studies and public comments from the 2008 rulemaking process. EPA also reviewed the findings of the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommended standards in the new proposed ranges. The new regulations would set aside those of the Bush Administration.
“EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face,” said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. “Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.”
Business groups have been quick to criticize the move, according to the Wall Street Journal, which noted that the National Association of Manufacturers (citing EPA data that shows a 25% fall in smog concentrations nationwide from 1980 to 2008) said the announcement shows that “with EPA, no good deed goes unpunished.”
Other groups were enthusiastic in their support of the proposal, including Clean Air Watch.
“Smog is the nation’s most widespread air pollutant and one of the most dangerous,” said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “Smog can make us sick. It can send us to the hospital. It can literally kill.”
EPA will take public comment for 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold three public hearings on the proposal: the first two on Feb. 2 in Arlington, VA and in Houston and a third on Feb. 4 in Sacramento, CA.