Monday, August 06, 2012

Gasp, Gasp! Clean Air Watch Survey Reports Smoggiest July Since 2008

Stop the presses! July’s smog did not break a record!

However, it was the smoggiest July since 2008.

These are among the conclusions from Clean Air Watch’s latest Smog Watch Survey, the nation’s the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2012.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers underscores that we need new smog-fighting tools, such as low-sulfur gasoline. And the smog stats from this summer also suggest that the U.S. EPA’s official list of clean-air areas really understates the true extent of our national smog problem.

You may recall that both May and June of this year set dirty-air records for their respective months.

Our latest survey found that in July, breathers in 36 states and the District of Columbia suffered levels of smog worse than the national ozone standard set by the Bush administration in 2008. These smog levels are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

Last month was the second smoggiest July since the Bush standard was set in 2008. (2008 was the worst.)

During July 2012, the survey found the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached at least 1,590 times at state-run monitoring stations.

By comparison, during July 2011, there were 1,310 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedances.”

For 2012 as a whole there have been 4,702 of these dirty-smog readings, compared to 2,999 in 2011.

Clean Air Watch noted that the widespread nature of the problem underscored the dire need for new smog-fighting tools, including cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline.

Clean Air Watch also noted its survey understates the true extent of the smog problem. The EPA conceded more than two years ago that the Bush standard was too weak to protect children with asthma and other breathers .

But in the face of oil industry pressure, the White House put off any effort to update the standards until at least 2014. (Among those leading the opposition to tougher standards were then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley and OMB Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein, who recently announced he was returning to academia. We hope EPA will be allowed to deal with this issue honestly now that they’re going or gone.)

Oil pressure similarly has stalled a preliminary EPA plan to require oil companies to make cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline. EPA has testified to Congress that such a plan would cost refiners “less than one penny per gallon.”

A recent survey concluded that refiners would likely eat the cost – and that there would be no increase at the pump.

Clean Air Watch pointed out that low-sulfur gas would mean that every car on the road today would immediately pollute less because catalytic converters would perform better to eliminate smog-forming emissions.

One other thing really jumps out of the smog statistics: It appears that a number of cities (for instance: Birmingham, Detroit, Kansas City, Little Rock, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Richmond, Tulsa, Wichita) that EPA designated in April 2012 as in “attainment” of the ozone standard are already monitoring violations of that standard. Will EPA re-classify these areas, or will bureaucratic inertia rule -- and breathers continue to suffer and be misled?

Here are some of the grim details from last month, based on a survey of federal and state web sites:

July exceedances of ozone standard:

2012: 1590
2011: 1310
2010: 1080
2009: 740
2008: 1850

Here is the list of states with dirty-air (Code Orange or worse) days in July 2012:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
West Virginia

No comments: