EPA proposes smog standards under Clean Air Act

California Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new smog, or ozone, standards under the Clean Air Act after recent scientific evidence showed harmful effects of ground-level smog.

Under the proposal, the EPA is seeking to strengthen air quality standards between 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb), while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb.

The EPA is required, under the Clean Air Act, to review standards every five years. The standards were last updated in 2008, setting them at 75 ppb.

"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk. It empowers the American people with updated air quality information to protect our loved ones - because whether we work or play outdoors – we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act has always been EPA’s responsibility. Our health protections have endured because they’re engineered to evolve, so that’s why we’re using the latest science to update air quality standards – to fulfill the law’s promise, and defend each and every person’s right to clean air.”

More than 1,000 ozone standard studies were reviewed by EPA scientists. The studies indicate that exposure to the ozone at the current standard, below 75 ppb, can pose a significant threat to public health.  

The EPA expects the benefits to outweigh the costs.

"If the standards are finalized, every dollar we invest to meet them (the standards) will return up to three dollars in health benefits. These large health benefits will be gained from avoiding asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days and premature deaths, among other health effects valued at $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 65 ppb,” the EPA said in a press release. "Annual costs are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion for a standard at 65 ppb."

Several finalized or proposed air pollution rules, such as the “Tier 3” for clean vehicle and fuels standards, will help cut smog-forming emissions, helping states meet proposed standards. EPA’s analysis of federal programs shows that most U.S. counties with monitors would meet the more stringent standards by 2025 just with the rules and programs currently in place or underway. Depending on current levels, areas would have between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards.

The EPA is also seeking to extend the ozone monitoring season for 33 states and to strengthen a secondary ozone standard within 65 to 70 ppb to protect ecosystems.

From 1980 to 2013, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent; and that number is expected to continue to decline.

The EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, and the agency plans to hold three public hearings.

Final ozone standards are expected by October 1, 2015.

To view the proposal, click here  



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