Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Clean Air Watch to EPA on Smog: We Deserve the Right to Know When the Air is Unsafe to Breathe

Testimony of Frank O’Donnell, President, Clean Air Watch
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on ozone, Arlington, TX
January 29, 2015

GOOD MORNING.

I AM FRANK O’DONNELL, PRESIDENT OF CLEAN AIR WATCH, A NATIONAL NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO PROMOTING CLEANER AIR AND BETTER PUBLIC HEALTH CHIEFLY THROUGH EDUCATION.

THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO SPEAK TODAY ON EPA’S PROPOSAL TO UPDATE AIR QUALITY STANDARDS FOR OZONE, COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS SMOG.

AS YOU KNOW, THE AIR QUALITY STANDARDS ARE THE HEART – AND THE LUNGS – OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT. THESE STANDARDS HAVE HELPED BRING CLEANER AIR TO NORTH TEXAS AND THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. BUT CLEANER IS NOT THE SAME AS CLEAN.

I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THE CURRENT SMOG STANDARDS ARE TOO WEAK TO PROTECT OUR HEALTH. THEY ARE TOO WEAK TO PROTECT CHILDREN, TOO WEAK TO PROTECT SENIORS, TOO WEAK TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE, INCLUDING MILLIONS WITH ASTHMA.

AND I DO WANT TO REMIND YOU OF THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF ALERTING THE BREATHING PUBLIC WHEN THE OUTDOOR AIR IS DANGEROUS. TODAY, THE S0-CALLED AIR QUALITY INDEX AMOUNTS TO FALSE ADVERTISING. IT IS BASED ON AN OUTMODED STANDARD. THE HEALTH STANDARD FOR OZONE MUST BE UPDATED, AND SO MUST THE RELATED WARNING SYSTEM. THE PUBLIC SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT KNOW IF THE AIR IS TRULY FIT TO BREATHE.

I HOPE YOU WILL BASE YOUR DECISION ON MEDICAL SCIENCE – NOT POLITICAL SCIENCE.

BASED ON MEDICAL SCIENCE, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE CURRENT STANDARD IS TOO WEAK. YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT SCIENCE ADVISERS HAVE FORCEFULLY RECOMMENDED TOUGHER STANDARDS. NOT ONLY THAT, YOUR ADVISERS HAVE DECLARED THAT THE UPPER RANGE OF YOUR PROPOSAL – 70 PARTS PER BILLION – MAY BE ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT MAY NOT PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH WITH AN ADEQUATE MARGIN OF SAFETY.

TO QUOTE THOSE SCIENCE ADVISERS: “OUR POLICY ADVICE IS TO SET THE LEVEL OF THE STANDARD LOWER THAN 70 PPB WITHIN A RANGE DOWN TO 60 PPB.”

CLEAN AIR WATCH ENCOURAGES YOU TO HEED THAT ADVICE AND SET A STANDARD OF 60, THE LEVEL ENDORSED BY MAJOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICAL GROUPS SUCH AS THE AMERICAL LUNG ASSOCIATION AND THE AMERICAN THORACIC ASSOCIATION. YOUR OWN ANALYSES SHOW THAT A STANDARD OF 60 WOULD PROVIDE THE BEST PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION.

IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY I WAS THE LEAD-OFF WITNESS AT A SIMILAR EPA HEARING, THAT TIME IN ATLANTA, URGING THE EPA TO UPDATE ITS SMOG STANDARDS TO REFLECT THE ADVICE OF THE AGENCY’S INDEPENDENT SCIENCE ADVISERS. AND GIVE US THE RIGHT TO KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT DIRTY AIR. THAT WAS EIGHT LONG YEARS AGO, BEFORE POLITICS INTERVENED -- AGAIN AND AGAIN.

AT LONG LAST, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO CORRECT THOSE MISTAKES AND DO IT RIGHT THIS TIME. YOU WON’T HAVE SUCH AN OPPORTUNITY AGAIN ANY TIME SOON.

WE KNOW THE NAYSAYERS – AND THEIR POLITICAL CRONIES AND THEIR PSEUDO “THINK TANK” ALLIES -- WILL COME OUT IN FORCE TO PROCLAIM CLEANER AIR COSTS TOO MUCH.

FOR THEM, THE SKY IS ALWAYS FALLING.

HISTORY HAS PROVEN THE NAYSAYERS WRONG TIME AND AGAIN.

THE SKY WON’T FALL IF YOU SET TOUGHER STANDARDS. IT WILL ONLY GET CLEANER AND CLEARER.

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