After several days of reviewing detailed science on ozone (smog), EPA’s independent science advisers today appeared to be on the verge of urging the agency to set an even tougher national smog standard than then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sought to set in 2011. But the push for a tougher standard came to a screeching halt – at least for now -- when one panel member objected.
Just a very quick review of the numbers: in 2008, the Bush EPA set a standard of 75 parts per billion, averaged over an 8-hour period. EPA’s science advisers had urged a standard between 60 and 70. After years of reconsidering the issue, Jackson tried to reduce the standard to 70, but was stopped by the White House.
(The President claimed that EPA would reconsider the issue in 2013. Obviously that did not happen, but the EPA is again reviewing the question. Health and environmental groups have gone to court to seek to compel the EPA to set a final standard by October 2015. A court hearing on that is scheduled April 8.)
At a meeting today, the majority of agency’s science advisers appeared to agree that the agency should set a standard of “less than 70.” Some members of the science panel wanted to set an upper limit of 65. But one member (Sverre Vedal of University of Washington) stopped the show by saying he wanted to reiterate a recommendation between 60 and 70. The panel then punted on the effort to achieve consensus.
These discussions came amid a barrage of recent attacks by big polluter groups – and their surrogates on Capitol Hill, including Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Lamar Smith -- that seek to derail tougher smog standards. You can bet those attacks will only intensify! A tougher standard means better health protection. Smog causes death and disease. But the oil and electric power industries and other big polluters will fight anything that might drive them to spend on cleanup.
The science advisers will hold a follow-up call on May 28th before sending official comments in writing to the EPA. It will be interesting to see if they can reach a consensus than.