Monday, August 03, 2009

Clean Air Watch testimony on EPA NO2 proposal

My name is Frank O’Donnell and I am president of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit, non-partisan clean air watchdog organization.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I will be very brief and I hope to the point.

I think you know Clean Air Watch has long praised the diligent efforts of EPA’s professional staff, even when staff appeared to be hamstrung by political appointees from the prior administration who all-too-frequently appeared to put politics ahead of science.

We are glad today to renew our praise for the career staff even as we welcome an administration that is willing to listen to science – and to EPA’s science advisers.

Let me put this issue into a little context:

The news has been dominated in recent weeks by health care reform. The need to protect more people. To reduce costs. To cut down on emergency room visits.

Dirty air is the forgotten topic when it comes to health care reform. It will cost a lot less to keep people out of the emergency rooms. And one way to do this is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

There’s also been prominent news about the flu and flu shots. Nitrogen dioxide can make you more susceptible to the flu. So one way to help with the flu issue is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

And most of us, of course, remain anxious about the economy. Cleaning up dirty air is good for the economy. And an obvious way to do this is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

This issue is a test for how the Obama administration’s EPA will deal with national clean air standards.

The Bush administration failed miserably. All too often it ignored the science – and the agency’s own science advisers.

By contrast, we think the new EPA is on track for a passing grade with its proposal for nitrogen dioxide. But it’s a long way from an A+ when it comes to protecting kids with asthma and other breathers. We think it’s probably more like a B or C right now, depending on the range you’ve put forward.

We’d like you to get that grade up. We think kids with asthma deserve no less than A+ public health protection.

Specifically, we agree with the position advanced by the American Lung Association. We believe that the EPA should:

• Set a one-hour standard of 50 ppb or below. We believe a short-term standard at that level would better protect children with asthma and keep them out of hospital emergency rooms.

• Strengthen the annual average standard to protect against harm from long-term exposure. We believe you adopt the California annual average air quality standard for NO2, which is 30 ppb, as compared to the current federal standard of 53 ppb.

• Set up the roadside monitoring network to detect the problem where it is likely most serious. We do urge you to keep that regardless of the level of the standard. The level of the standard must depend on what is necessary to protect human health, not on the existence of a monitoring network.

Thank you.

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