Committee’s Vote to Delay Ozone Rules Jeopardizes Health, Stymies Years of Progress

Effort to slow down pollution clean-up based on faulty economic assumption

Update: On July 18, 2017, the House of Representatives voted in favor of this legislation to weaken clean-air protections.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – A Congressional committee this morning voted to delay by eight years the start date for tougher ozone standards that health professionals say would save lives, reduce heart problems and cut the number of children suffering asthma attacks.

This attack on clean air comes as a new analysis by the Southern Environmental Law Center shows one of the most cited reasons for rolling back ozone protections – tougher standards are too costly to industry and the economy – is not supported by facts.

As environmental protections reduced the number of unhealthy ozone days in the South’s metropolitan areas, SELC’s research showed that at the same time the economic benchmarks in the six states studied grew considerably.

“As part of a campaign to gut commonsense environmental protections, we’ve seen fossil fuel lobbyists push this untruth that the economy suffers with more regulations,” said Frank Rambo, leader of SELC’s Clean Air and Energy Team. “But the reality is quite different. As the air in the South’s big cities got cleaner, the economies in the southern states also got healthier.”

Breathing ozone harms people’s lungs. Especially vulnerable are children, the elderly, and people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to push back to 2025 a key early step where the Environmental Protection Agency would begin determining which states will be held accountable for exceeding the current standard of 70 ppb.

The move is one of several recent attacks from the Trump administration based on the false idea that clean-air regulations hurt the economy.

The SELC analysis revealed that as the number of “bad” ozone days fell over time, economic vitality went up. The analysis compared the trend of “bad” ozone days from 1990 to 2015 against the gross domestic product in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee for those same years.

The results show that the efforts by President Trump’s administration to push back ozone standards for the sake of the economy are off base, according to Rambo.

“This is another misplaced attack on a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said. “The process we have for lowering ozone levels has clearly worked without ‘strangling the economy’ as some repeatedly claim. We need to allow those safeguards to continue to work, not twist them to favor polluters.”

To see a visual story depicting SELC’s analysis, click here:

https://vimeo.com/222542029 or copy and paste the link into your browser.

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About The Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and a regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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