Wednesday, February 10, 2010

API Counters Improved Health Benefits From Ozone Standard

Feb 2: In testimony delivered in Houston, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said U.S. EPA's proposed new ozone pollution standards would exact significant costs on consumers, jobs and the economy without delivering commensurate benefits.  It said there was no scientific justification for imposing the more stringent standards. API policy advisor Ted Steichen, who presented the association's testimony said, "Without a clear certain scientific basis for selecting a different numeric standard, the ozone standard need not be changed now. We urge the Administrator not to pursue this proposal. He said EPA's own studies failed to support a lowering of the ozone standards.  
    Yesterday, WIMS reported on the testimony of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) which indicated that strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone pollution from 75 to 60 parts per billion (ppb) would reduce premature death rates by 60-fold and reduce asthma cases 50-fold, according to analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The testimony was given at an the EPA public hearing in Sacramento to reconsider the adequacy of a controversial national ozone air quality standard adopted by the Agency in 2008. The Agency held three public hearings on the proposal: Feb. 2, 2010 in Arlington, VA and in Houston; and Feb. 4, 2010 in Sacramento. Written comments are being accepted until March 22, 2010 [See WIMS 2/9/10].

    API's Steichen emphasized that tremendous progress has been made improving the nation's air quality, in large part through oil and natural gas industry efforts, and said more improvements will follow -- under the existing ozone standards -- because of pollution controls in place or soon to be implemented. He testified, "Thanks to implementation of the Clean Air Act our air quality has demonstrably improved. Since 1990, the oil and gas industry invested more than $175 billion -- that's billion, with a 'B' -- towards improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities, and operations."

    Both cleaner vehicles and cleaner fuels will contribute to further improvement, he explained, with "annual emission reductions from the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel with cleaner technology engines … equivalent to removing the pollution from more than 90% of today's trucks and buses by 2030." Steichen said moving forward with the proposed new standards could "impact citizens while they are still suffering from a severe recession, in the very communities where we need to be creating jobs."

    On January 7, U.S. EPA proposed the strictest health standards to date for ground-level ozone or smog -- proposing a rule to set the "primary" standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The current primary 8-hour standard is 0.075 ppm [See WIMS 1/7/10]. EPA is also proposing to set a separate "secondary" standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees -- proposing to set the level of the secondary standard within the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. The current secondary standard is the same as the primary standard -- 0.075 ppm.

    Despite contrary testimony from EDF and others and information from EPA, Dr. Robyn Prueitt testified on behalf of API indicating that "controlled human exposure studies do not support an association between ozone exposure and adverse respiratory effects below 0.08 ppm. . . The epidemiological evidence for short-term health effects of ozone is weak and does not support causality at levels below 0.08 ppm. . . Health effects are attributed to ozone exposure when PM-related associations are not accounted for. . . [and] There are many issues with EPA's scientific method."

    Access a release from API with links to Steichen's complete testimony and Dr. Robyn Prueitt's testimony on behalf of API analyzing the scientific research on the impacts of ozone on health (click here). Access a release on the EDF testimony and link to related information (click here). Access links to extensive background information including a fact sheet, hearing recordings, and the proposed rule from EPA's website (click here). Access the EPA docket for background and to review & submit comments (click here).