The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the Obama administration will reconsider standards adopted by the Bush administration for ozone, the main component of urban smog. The Bush standards were far weaker than recommended by EPA’s own science advisors, prompting a court challenge by the public interest law firm Earthjustice on behalf of public health and conservation groups. Today was a court-ordered deadline for EPA to report its plans to the court. The following is a statement by Earthjustice attorney David Baron:
“This action gives hope to millions of people suffering from polluted air throughout the nation. The Bush administration’s EPA ignored the unanimous advice of its own science advisors and denied Americans the protection they deserve. Stronger standards could save thousands of lives and prevent severe damage to forests.”
Under the schedule announced today, EPA will propose reconsideration of the standards by December 21 of this year, and take final action (including any revision of the standards) by August 31, 2010. EPA said it will identify areas violating the new standards within a year after that, and require completion of cleanup plans by 2013. “It’s crucial that there be no delay in these schedules,” said Baron.
Smog is linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year. Ozone is especially dangerous to small children and senior citizens, who are often warned to stay indoors on polluted days. Ozone pollution can also cause major damage to trees and plants, stunting their growth, and leading to the yellowing or mottling of leaves. EPA’s science advisors unanimously called for a special growing season standard to protect forests and crops from ozone damage, but EPA — on direct orders from the Bush White House — rejected their advice. EPA said today it would revisit that decision as well.
Earthjustice’s clients in the court challenge to the Bush standards are the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, and Appalachian Mountain Club.
Read American Lung Association’s fact sheet about ozone pollution. (PDF)
Read American Lung Association’s backgrounder about ozone pollution. (PDF)