Better World Club

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obama Administration to Tighten Smog Standards

...and Other Weird Tales of Washington

Next Thing You Know the Securities and Exchange Commission is Going to be Regulating Wall Street!

After nearly a decade of inaction on air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration recently proposed stricter standards for smog-causing pollutants. Under the new proposals, the primary standard for smog would be tightened to between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million, the strictest standard in E.P.A. history. The current standard (set by the Bush administration in 2008) is 0.075 parts per million, a figure that has been challenged by both environmental activists and public health advocates.

Smog, or ground-level ozone, forms when emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, landfills and motor vehicles react in the sun. Currently, only 15 of 675 cities that monitor smog levels would be in compliance with a 0.060 ppm standard. E.P.A. analysts expect that the stricter standard could prevent thousands of premature deaths a year from lung cancer and heart disease, as well as thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma (a health care savings of up to $100 billion).

What?!? E.P.A. using it's regulatory power under the Clean Air Act to protect public health? "E.P.A. is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face," said bizzaro E.P.A. Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, "Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease. It dirties our air, clouds our cities and drives up our health care costs across the country.” We guess so. Maybe if you believe in science...

Even stranger: new proposals on smog regulation came on the heels of a December E.P.A. finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health. That ruling will allow the E.P.A. to begin regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted by both automobiles and stationary sources like farms and power plants. The endangerment finding took effect on January 14, and a first wave of rules is expected by March.

What's next? The S.E.C. reigning in Wall Street? It won't be long until the F.D.A. is telling us what to eat!

Meanwhile, the E.P.A. is accepting public comments on its smog proposals for 60 days from January 19, and is holding three public hearings beginning early February. A final rule setting a single primary standard between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm is expected by August. States must submit plans for compliance by the end of 2013. New rules will be enforced gradually from 2014 to 2031 depending on the dirtiness of the air in an affected area.

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