“This new standard is a step in the right direction and offers significantly greater protection than the old standard”, said Deborah Brown, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in Virginia.
Over the past three summer ozone seasons in Pima County, including the May-September 2015 period, the highest reading at any of eight ozone monitors was 69, a notch below the standard, says the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.
The agency’s draft rule, released last November, suggested a limit somewhere between 65 and 70 parts per billion, though the agency also accepted comments on whether to reduce the limit to as little as 60 parts per billion.
The new rules are created to “protect people’s health as well as the environment”, said Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. “A level of 70 ppb will essentially eliminate exposures to the levels that clinical studies clearly show are harmful”, she said.
California has the highest ozone levels in the nation and isn’t expected to meet the new standard until the 2030s.
The new rules to be imposed under the Clean Air Act seek to reduce asthma, especially childhood asthma, and other respiratory diseases and premature deaths that can be caused or exacerbated by smog, otherwise known as ground-level ozone pollution.
If it is “marginal” non attainment, the penalties would be the least severe, and could include restrictions on new employers entering the market until they prove they would not add more pollution to the air, and limits on highway expansion, on the claim that more highway capacity would lead to more vehicles on those roads.
The Environmental Protection Agency heard calls from business groups to leave the ozone standard alone and shouts from environmental groups to drastically lower it.
Nitrogen oxide and other volatile organic compounds emitted from factories, power plants and automobiles can cause the formation of smog.
“We know that this regulation could have been worse, but it still feels like a punch in the gut”, said Tom Riordan, president and chief executive of Neenah Enterprises Inc. and task force leader for the manufacturers group.
Public health benefits of the new standard are estimated at $2.9 billion to 5.9 billion annually as of 2025, compared with estimated annual costs of $1.4 billion, McCabe said. The standards may impact the type of gasoline that can be sold in more polluted parts of the state, and could hamper the state’s ability to build new highways in Pennsylvania, Sunday said.
“The science shows that ozone is unsafe to these kids at the levels allowed by this new standard”, said Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice’s vice president of Healthy Communities.
On Thursday, Goodman said that she was concerned about the ability of Southern Nevada to comply with the ozone rules by 2018 and that the region could lose billions of dollars in federal funding for transportation projects if it fails to meet the deadline. But ozone levels in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford, as well as six other Maryland counties, have exceeded the new limit in recent years, according to the EPA. It also must set rules based on health standards, not compliance costs.
He said that medical and health groups had pushed for the 60 parts per billion standard.
The power plant rule is at the center of Obama’s climate change strategy.
Groups representing physicians and pediatricians had called for the strictest possible standard while business interests waged an aggressive campaign to persuade the Obama administration to keep it at 75.