Clean Air Watch

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Report: Diesel Pollution Controls Really Work! Congress and White House, Please Take Note!

A new report confirms something that may seem obvious to some -- using pollution control devices on big diesel engines really cuts emissions -- and reduces public exposure to a very dangerous pollutant.

The report, by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, , tracked the results of putting diesel pollution control devices on buses in metropolitan Boston early in the last decade.  The good news?  Emissions of dangerous black carbon soot particles dropped significantly as the pollution controls were put into place.  This was fantastic news, especially for those living near a bus depot in Roxbury.

What's the bad news?  Well, it's not in this report, but the bad news is that the Obama administration keeps trying to slash funding for similar cleanup programs elsewhere. (In government jargon, it seeks to zero out funding for the Diesel Emission Reduction Program.)  Each year in the past few, Congress has scrapped over restoring a relative pittance to the cleanup program, which relies on government spending.  (Although new diesel engines are very clean, existing ones are not -- and are exempt from mandatory federal cleanup requirements.)

Black carbon, by the way, is also a potent "climate forcing" pollutant, so reductions in it help reduce the climate change problem, at least in the short term.

We can only hope that Congress takes note -- and that the White House stops its ill-conceived efforts to terminate diesel cleanup spending.  There are still far too many dirty diesels still on the road!




Tuesday, July 08, 2014

False Advertising? Why the Air Quality Index is Wrong – and Needs to be Updated

Throughout the summer, we often hear about the “Air Quality Index” or AQI.
The index, originated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is supposed to represent the government’s Official Seal of Approval – or Disapproval – on the quality of the air we breathe.  According to the EPA,    “The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you.”

But does it really?
In fact, the current AQI for smog, or ozone, doesn’t reflect the best and most recent science.  As a result, it dramatically understates the risk to the breathing public.  "Code Yellow" is nowhere near as safe as you might think.

At Clean Air Watch, we believe the public has the right to know if the air we breathe is safe.  Until the government updates the AQI based on the best science, that’s not the case.  Right now, some might call it false advertising.

Friday, June 27, 2014

EPA Science Advisers: Current Smog Standard Way Too Weak -- In Fact, Even the Top of Our Recommended Range May Be Illegally Weak!

EPA's Science Advisers have finally weighed in officially with a recommendation on what the EPA should do to change national health standards for ozone, commonly referred to as smog.  And their letter is a doozy: the scientists not only note that the current standard of 75 parts per billion is too weak -- but that the top part of their own recommended range (60 to 70) may be illegally weak as well!

This recommendation could pose a real dilemma for EPA, whose management has seemed skittish about this key public health issue since a Running-for-Reelection President Obama and his White House henchmen killed an effort in 2011 to set a tougher standard of 70.  (Don't believe me about the skittish remark?  Do a search and find out how often EPA politicos have talked about ozone since 2011.) 

It's going to be tough for EPA to sweep this issue under the rug in light of the scientists' letter.

Based partly on more recent scientific evidence, the scientists assert that even a standard of 70 would mean "adverse" health effects "including decrease in lung function, increase in respiratory symptoms, and increase in airway inflammation" and that "it may not meet the statutory requirement to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety." EPA's staff health risk assessment on this issue noted earlier that smog causes death and disease -- and that the tougher the standard, the lower the expected death rate.

The "policy advice" of the science advisers: set a standard tougher than 70.

A reluctant EPA is under a court order to propose a decision on this issue by December of this year and to make a final decision by October 2015.   

The full letter is here:

Read on for a few highlights from the letter:

Clean Air Watch in the News

Learn more about the Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act is the law that defines EPA's responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. The last major change in the law, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, was enacted by Congress in 1990. Legislation passed since then has made several minor changes.