A special report
Last Thursday the White House officially began reviewing one of the most crucial decisions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose this year – national air quality standards for ozone (commonly known as smog).
EPA is under a court order to propose action by June 20, and the battle lines have already formed.
This has become a struggle between science and politics. More specifically, it is becoming a battle between health science – which unequivocally shows that existing standards are too weak to protect people’s health – and political pressure generated by special-interest polluters that want to cling to the status quo.
Prodded by the polluters (we believe the oil and coal-burning electric power industries are among the most active players) already a dozen governors have contacted the EPA to oppose tougher new standards. So have numerous mayors and state lawmakers as well as such groups as the Texas Conference of Black Mayors and the National Indian Business Association. The language used in their letters is so similar that the correspondence must be the product of an organized dirty-air campaign.
We believe the science is crystal clear that EPA must propose considerably tougher new standards. The big polluters want EPA to at least consider keeping the current standard, set in 1997, as one option for public comment.
Details follow below.
Who’s arguing for tougher standards?
EPA’s independent science advisers: In a March 26, 2007 letter, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee unanimously called on EPA to set tougher standards: “Ozone Panel members were unanimous in recommending that the level of the current primary ozone standard should be lowered from 0.08 ppm to no greater than 0.070 ppm.” http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-07-002.pdf The panel cited “overwhelming scientific evidence.”
EPA’s staff scientists: They argued (in their so-called “staff paper”) http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/s_o3_cr_sp.html
that EPA should consider a new standard “within the range of somewhat below 0.080 ppm to 0.060 ppm.”
EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee: EPA’s top children’s health advisers urged that “in order to be more protective of the respiratory health of susceptible children, the committee recommends that the EPA choose a standard of 0.060 ppm, the low end of the range offered in the staff paper.” http://www.cleanairstandards.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/chpac-letter-to-johnson-3232007.pdf
More than 100 distinguished air researchers and physicians: This group reiterated the call by EPA’s science advisers. http://www.cleanairstandards.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/final-ozone-scientists-sign-on-letter-4-5-07.doc
More than 20 health and environmental groups (including Clean Air Watch): http://www.cleanairstandards.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/ltr-from-public-health-environ-groups-on-ozone-naaqs-04-16-07.pdf This group, led by the American Lung Association, said We urge you to propose an eight-hour ozone standard at the lower end of this range—at 0.060 ppm—to protect against known and anticipated adverse health effects and to provide a margin of safety to protect sensitive populations as required by the Clean Air Act.”
Who’s balking at tougher standards?
A dozen mainly Southern governors: These include Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons. Most of these urged EPA to consider keeping the current standard as an option.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: In one of the more illogical comments I’ve ever seen on an air quality issue, TCEQ Chair Kathleen Hartnett White asserted that “our ozone nonattainment areas are in attainment for particulate matter. Thus, lower the standard [for ozone] will not result in an improvement in public health.” White also argued that a tougher ozone standard would result in “a significant negative consequence to the economy of our state” – in effect, suggesting that EPA should consider economic impacts of the standard, something the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled was illegal.
Local officials: These include Little Rock Arkansas Mayor Mark Stodala, Charlestown Indiana Mayor Michael D. Hall, Shively Kentucky Mayor Sherry Conner, Cocke County Tennessee Mayor Iliff McMahan Jr., Fort Coffee, Oklahoma Mayor Denny Burris, President Oklahoma Conference of Black Mayors, Texas Conference of Black Mayors, Knox County Tennessee Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Knoxville Tennessee Councilman Joe Bailey, Roane County Tennessee Mayor Mike Farmer, Mississippi State Senator Bob Darling, Illinois State Representative Thomas Holbrook, Missouri State Senators, and North Dakota State Senators.
Minority business groups: These include the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Indian Business Association.
An alliance of big polluters:
• Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
• American Chemistry Council
• American Coke & Coal Chemicals Institute
• American Forest & Paper Association
• American Iron and Steel Institute
• American Petroleum Institute
• American Trucking Associations
• Corn Refiners Association
• Council of Industrial Boiler Owners
• Edison Electric Institute
• Engine Manufacturers Associatio n
• National Association of Manufacturers
• National Cotton Council
• National Mining Association
• National Oilseed Producers Association
• National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
• National Petrochemical & Refiners Association
• Portland Cement Association
• U.S. Chamber of Commerce
• Utility Air Regulatory Group