Skip to main content

President Bush -- er, Obama -- Keeps Weak Ozone Standards

In July, we were mighty disappointed when the Obama administration announced a fourth delay of the ozone rule. That disappointment is tenfold today after the Obama administration announced that it would not strengthen weak Bush-era ozone health standards. Instead the administration is going to maintain the status quo until at least 2013, which means thousands of Americans who suffer from lung and breathing diseases are at risk.

What a shame.

In his statement, President Obama mentioned the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions on the environment this year: reducing mercury from power plants and improving the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, as well as cutting pollution that travels interstate. While all of these environmental measures are needed, much more needs to be done. And the Obama administration knows this. The administration knows full well what a stronger ozone standard means: cutting ozone from the current 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to the new 70 (ppb) standard was estimated to save up to 12,000 lives, prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hospital visits, and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.

Earthjustice sued to challenge these standards on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association and Appalachian Mountain Club. The case was put on hold when the Obama Administration said it would reconsider the standards. Regarding the latest news, Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association said: “The American Lung Association now intends to revive its participation in litigation with the administration, which was suspended following numerous assurances that the administration was going to complete this reconsideration and obey the law. We had gone to court because the Bush Administration failed to follow the law and set a protective health standard.”

More from President Obama:

I want to be clear: my commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering. I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution. And my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.

And a response to today’s terrible news from Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation Martin Hayden:

Sacrificing American lives and forcing our friends and family members who suffer from asthma to breathe dirty air is a poor legacy for President Obama. Keeping weak, inefficient standards in place is not the change we were promised. It’s a travesty that the Obama administration in this case has refused to place the health of America’s children and citizens above corporate greed.

People who suffer from asthma often say an attack feels like breathing through a pool of water or with a pillow covering their face. Millions of Americans suffer from asthma; however, most people don't know how brutal it is to live with the disease.

In the United States, asthma is a bona fide public health epidemic: 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from the disease. Every year, our society pays in excess of $53 billion to treat it. Millions of asthmatics, including hundreds of thousands of kids, make visits to the emergency room for medical attention. And in thousands of severe cases, people die.

Breathing is a fundamental right, yet every day air pollution is affecting millions of American's Right to Breathe.

Tags:  Air, Ozone