Source: Orange County Register
Current limits pose serious health threat, its analysis shows, but GOP worries about jobs
Meeting federal standards for healthful air in Southern California may soon get more difficult.
A truck makes its way to the Olinda Landfill in Brea. Diesel exhaust is a major part of outdoor air pollution. In addition to lung cancer and other cancers, diesel exhaust is believed to play a role in health problems such as eye irritation, headache, asthma and other lung diseases, heart disease, and possibly immune system problems. (OC Register)
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher health standards for ozone, the hallmark pollutant of summer smog.
The agency said its scientists examined more than 1,000 studies showing that the current allowable levels still pose serious threats to public health. Ozone harms the lungs, aggravates asthma and is linked to premature death from respiratory and heart diseases, the EPA says.
It is an unstable gas that forms when different kinds of air pollution emissions react with each other in the air basin above and between the Orange and Los Angeles beaches and the San Bernardino Mountains.
“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air-quality information, and protect those most at risk,” said an EPA statement attributed to agency administrator Gina McCarthy.
The current ozone health standard calls for no more than 75 parts per billion of ozone averaged over eight hours each day. The new proposal calls for setting the standard between 65 and 70 parts per billion.
That would make it more difficult for Southern California to meet the legal definition of healthful air.
So far this year, the region failed to meet the existing health standard on 94 days. If the standard were 65 parts per billion, the region would have been out of compliance on 146 days.
The EPA estimated the annual cost to industry to meet the low end of the proposed range in 2025 would be $15 billion, but savings from lower health costs and fewer sick days would be $19 billion to $38 billion.
The proposal was immediately hailed by environmentalists and criticized by industry groups and Republicans.
“This new ozone regulation threatens to be the most expensive ever imposed on industry in America and could jeopardize recent progress in manufacturing by placing massive new costs on manufacturers and closing off counties and states to new business,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Republicans in Congress said it was just the latest in a list of EPA proposals they plan to battle next year when they control both the House and Senate.
Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement saying the rule would “devastate job creation – at a time when Americans are already struggling.”
But Marta Stoepker, a Los Angeles-based spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said cleaner air is needed to improve public health. She said the nation and Southern California already have made great strides toward improving air quality “without breaking the economy.”
Jobs will be created by providing the electric cars and other clean machines needed to meet the standard, she said.
Once a new health standard is established, the EPA will set deadlines for Southern California and other regions to meet.
Southern California air quality officials now face a 2024 deadline to meet the existing health standards.
The EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days. It will issue final ozone standards by Oct. 1, 2015.
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