EPA Adopts New Smog Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new and stricter national standard for ground-level ozone and smog, which is expected to improve respiratory health for millions of people but doesn’t go as far as environmentalists had desired.
The change lowers the standard for ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. Ozone contributes to smog and respiratory ailments and can cause smog to form on hot sunny days when pollutants from fossil-fueled power plants and internal combustion vehicles mix in the air. Smog has been shown to cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and is blamed for thousands of premature deaths.
Scientists at the EPA had recommended that the standard be lowed to 60 to 70 parts per billion.
The EPA estimates that the new standard will carry an annual cost to the U.S. economy of $1.4 billion but that the economic benefits from fewer asthma attacks, emergency room visits, missed days at work and at school, and premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and other illnesses will save between $2.9 billion to $5.9 billion.
The new standards will be implemented over a 17-year period starting in 2020. States and counties with more serious ozone problems will need to meet the standard before others. The new restrictions will have the greatest impact in California because the state has the nation’s worst air quality and has consistently failed to meet previous ozone standards.
Earlier in the week, the EPA announced new emissions standards for petroleum refineries. “These updated Clean Air Act standards will lower the cancer risk from petroleum refineries for more than 1.4 million people and are a substantial step forward in EPA’s work to protect the health of vulnerable communities located near these facilities,” said Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator.
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