Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some thoughts on today's US EPA announcement about smog trends

A couple of quick thoughts below on today’s announcement by the US EPA on smog trends in the eastern half of the nation.

As we understand it, the EPA will report that because of the so-called NOx SIP call (the summertime pollution controls for electric power plants in the Eastern U.S. adopted by the Clinton Administration), ozone or smog in the East has dropped since 2004. This is an annual report. EPA came up with similar findings last year – see at http://www.epa.gov/air/airtrends/2006/ozonenbp/

There are a couple of things to put this into context:

We have definitely seen improvements in air quality in the Eastern U.S. because of this Clinton administration initiative, which – by the way – was vehemently opposed by the Edison Electric Institute and many of the big power companies like American Electric Power, as well as by some states including West Virginia and Michigan. (Isn’t it interesting to note how these companies now like to brag about how much they’ve cleaned up under a program they fought against?)

This shows quite dramatically that if we clean up pollution at the source, breathers will reap the benefits of cleaner air.

However, we have not solved the smog problem – not by a long shot. Our unofficial statistics for this year show that no fewer than 39 states plus the District of Columbia have still experienced pollution levels above the current national smog standard, set in 1997. See list below.

In other words, we need to do more even to meet the current standards. The Bush administration’s so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule is a step towards progress, but its targets and deadlines will still leave millions of breathers stuck with dirty air for far too long.

The power plant legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) would promote cleaner air by calling for tougher controls. We expect to see this legislation thrown into the mix as the Senate wrestles with the global warming issue.

The other thing to keep top of mind is that modern science shows the current smog standards are too weak to protect people’s health. That’s the unanimous conclusion of EPA’s independent science advisers and virtually every credible scientist who knows anything about these matters.

So let’s not pop open too many champagne bottles. But also consider the lesson of this report is that if we push the big polluters to clean up, we’ll have cleaner air.

**

Here is the list of states with smog problems in 2007 through September 26:

Alabama
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Nevada
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Virginia
Utah
West Virginia
Wisconsin

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