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Congress Wants to Know Why EPA Administrator Ignored Science in Setting Smog Standards

Rejection of stronger standard leaves millions more Americans at risk for lung, heart disease
May 20, 2008
Washington, DC —

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will today face off with Stephen Johnson, Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over why he ignored the recommendations of his own scientists when setting a standard for ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, earlier this year.

Earthjustice led a campaign that generated over 60,000 signatures onto a petition calling upon Johnson to set the standard at no greater than 60 parts-per-billion. EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended that the agency set the standard at between 60 and 70 parts-per-billion. Instead, Johnson and the EPA set the standard at between 70 and 75 parts-per-billion, leaving asthmatics, young children, the elderly and others at greater risk for lung and heart disease than the standard recommended by health experts.

The following statement is from Ben Dunham, Associate Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice:

"Politics is trumping science at the EPA. Johnson had evidence that tightening the smog standard to 65 parts-per-billion could save thousands of lives each year, yet he still chose the much weaker standard. According to the American Lung Association, roughly 99 million people, or a third of the U.S. population, live in areas with unsafe smog levels under the previous EPA levels.

"EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee -- an independent board of 23 scientists that advises EPA on the latest research and scientific findings -- unanimously recommended that EPA set the ozone health standard at 60 to 70 parts-per-billion. The scientists also unanimously recommended a separate summertime standard to protect forests from ozone damage. Johnson rejected both of these recommendations. It's time that EPA listens to the advice of doctors and scientists rather than polluters and industry." 


 Ben Dunham, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500