by Ciera Crawley
As the summer heats up, the EPA is proposing a much-needed update to the health standard for ground-level ozone, otherwise known as smog. The modernization of this protection comes none too soon: there have been no updates to ozone health standards since 1997.
The new rule will “save as many as 12,000 lives a year and generate as much as $100 billion annually in health benefits by 2020.” But these enormous benefits have been postponed 3 times over the past year as the oil industry and other big emitters put pressure on the White House to delay the rule and its public health protections.
Smog is a pollutant generated by cars, power plants, and other industries when the nitrogen they release into the air is exposed to the sun and “cooked” into harmful ground-level ozone. The hotter it is, the more smog you get, so human-caused global warming – which drives more intense heat waves – is yet one more reason to tighten ozone standards.
Scientists in the EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) believe that the standards for ground level ozone should be reduced to the rates of 60-70 parts per billion (ppb) far lower than the 75 ppb standard set by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Some businesses and leaders claim that “stricter ozone standards would hurt both industry and President Obama’s chances for reelection.” But these arguments are being refuted by over 250 medical and health professionals in all 50 states, who on July 21st delivered a letter to President Obama recommending that he take the advice of EPA scientists and follow through on higher standards for ozone smog. They explain that “millions of Americans live in areas where the air pollution exceeds the levels where adverse health effects occur.”
Will President Obama heed these experts’ advice, and ignore Big Oil and other corporate polluter interests who have opposed almost every public health measure? One White House representative promised recently that:
[T]his administration will continue to put in place smart standards that are based on science and the law… the President has been clear that when it comes to implementing a standard, we will do so in a way that…does not impede our economic recovery in any way.
Americans suffering from smog across the country hope that this promise comes to fruition soon in the form of a strong new level of protection from ground-level ozone.
— Ciera Crawley, energy intern with the Center for American Progress