Wednesday, October 25, 2006

EPA Air Advisors Urge Strengthening The Ozone Standard

Oct 25: U.S. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Panel issued new recommendations for limiting ozone, or smog pollution. The 23-member scientific advisory panel unanimously presented their view that there is no scientific justification for retention of the current 8-hour ozone standard of 0.08 parts per million (ppm); and recommended instead that a substantially stronger standard in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm be adopted. Under a court-ordered schedule, EPA must propose action on the ozone standard by May 30, 2007, and take final action by February 2008.

In an October 24, 2006, cover letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the CASAC Ozone Panel said, "In its summary of EPA staff conclusions on the primary (health-related) ozone NAAQS found in Chapter 6 of the 2nd Draft Ozone Staff Paper, OAQPS set-forth two options with regard to revising the level and the form of the standard: (1) retain the current primary eight-hour (8-hr) NAAQS of 0.08 parts per million (ppm); or (2) consider a reduction in the level of the primary O3 NAAQS within the range of alternative 8-hr standards included in Staff’s exposure and risk assessments (which included a range from 0.064 to 0.084 ppm) with primary focus on an O3 level of 0.07 ppm with a range of forms from third- through fifth-highest daily maximum. The Ozone Panel unanimously concludes that: (1.) There is no scientific justification for retaining the current primary 8-hr NAAQS of 0.08 parts per million (ppm), and (2.) The primary 8-hr NAAQS needs to be substantially reduced to protect human health, particularly in sensitive subpopulations. Therefore, the CASAC unanimously recommends a range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm for the primary ozone NAAQS."

EPA is currently reviewing the standards under a court-ordered schedule in a suit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of health and environmental groups, including the American Lung Association. Earthjustice attorney David Baron issued a statement regarding the CASAC announcement saying, "Scientists are now telling us that ozone is much more dangerous to our lungs than previously thought. We urge EPA to heed the advice of the health experts and strengthen the standards so we can all breathe easier. Federal health standards for smog are too weak to protect public health. Only last month, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson rejected a recommendation of his science advisors, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and a host of other public health groups that he strengthen the annual clean air standard for another pollutant - airborne particulate matter (including soot). The stronger standards had been opposed by industry groups. It's time for EPA to base standards on sound science instead of political science. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to adopt standards strong enough to protect public health. We hope this time EPA will listen to the health experts and ensure the clean air Americans deserve."

Access the complete 112-page CASAC review and recommendations (click here). Access an Earthjustice release (click here). Access the CASAC Ozone Panel website for extensive background information (click here). [*Air]