News | September 5, 2011

White House steps back from strengthening ozone standard

In an unexpected move, President Obama has halted a proposal to strengthen the national standard for allowable ambient levels of ozone pollution, or smog. Although the improved standard would have protected untold numbers of children, senior citizens and others from further health risks, industry lobbyists went into overdrive this summer in a p.r. campaign to raise fears of lost job and ruined economies if the new air pollution standard were enacted.

Ozone pollution results primarily from coal-fired power plant emissions and vehicle exhaust. The Clean Air Act requires that the Environmental Protection Agency review the national ozone standard every five years.  The agency's science committee has recommended lowering the allowable level of ozone in a community's air to better protect public health.

As SELC and others have documented for some time, improving air quality by reducing ozone pollution does not trigger economic catastrophe. (Read our “Don't Fall For It” fact sheet.) The EPA has been regulating ozone pollution for some 35 years with virtually no effect on economic cycles regionally or nationally, yet with steady improvements in air quality. Advanced scientific research now shows that persistent exposure to even low levels of ozone pollution causes lung and heart disease, and especially effects children, the elderly and those with existing lung and heart conditions.  

We are deeply disappointed that the White House blocked a new standard, even though EPA was ready to move forward this year.  Instead, the Administration has said it will conduct the routine review and propose a new standard in 2013.  Unfortunately, some leaders in the House of Representatives have made widely known their intentions of gutting EPA's authority to effectively regulate ozone, as well as many other air pollutants.