Last week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson confirmed that her agency intends to soon decide whether to strengthen health and welfare standards for ozone, a dangerous air pollutant that sends tens of thousands of people to the hospital every year. This week, a coalition of industry interests opposed to these vital health protections, which includes the American Petroleum Institute and U.S Chamber of Commerce, is increasing the pressure to have stronger standards abandoned altogether—a do nothing approach that experts estimate would mean thousands of premature deaths every year due to polluted air.
Ozone is the main component of urban smog, and it can be deadly. If the EPA follows the best advice of its scientists and sets a strong standard of 60 parts per billion (ppb), it could save the lives of up to 12,000 people every year. The EPA is updating a standard set in 2008 by the Bush administration, which Jackson herself last week called legally indefensible. Earthjustice has filed a federal court challenge to the weak Bush standard on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association and Appalachian Mountain Club. The case is on hold while EPA reconsiders the standard.
Below is a statement from Earthjustice Attorney David Baron:
“Ozone is one of the great killers among air pollutants, and the standard set in 2008 by the Bush administration leaves thousands of people unprotected. The threat is especially great to small children, the elderly, and people with lung ailments. It’s vital that the current EPA get this standard right and resist pressure from lobbyists for big oil and big industry who want to avoid cleaning up.
“In addition to causing the deaths of thousands of people every year, ozone pollution sends people to the hospital, worsens asthma and decreases the productivity of our nation by causing people to miss tens of thousands of days of work and school. That is both a health and an economic burden, and it’s time for the EPA to lift it from the shoulders of hard-working Americans.”