(Washington, D.C. – September 1, 2020) Three EDF experts joined Americans from across the country at a virtual public hearing today and called on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to strengthen health-based standard to reduce ground-level ozone pollution.
– the main component of smog — is linked to a wide-array of serious heart and lung diseases and premature deaths. Extreme heat, which is increasingly common because of climate change, makes smog levels worse. More than 137 million Americans live in an area with unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone pollution.
“We urge EPA to listen to science, experts, and the public and set a ground-level ozone standard that protects ALL Americans, including the most vulnerable. We strongly urge EPA to uphold its legal responsibility and strengthen the standard to 60 [parts per billion],” EDF fellow Taylor Bacon said in her testimony.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to reconsider the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone every five years and update them based on the best available science. The law also requires that the health-based standard protects vulnerable populations – including children, the elderly, people with existing heart and lung diseases, and outdoor workers – as well as the general public.
A large body of medical and scientific evidence shows that our current primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 70 parts per billion for ground-level ozone is inadequate to protect public health. EPA itself acknowledges that leaving our current standards in place disproportionately harms Black communities and low-income communities where there are higher rates of childhood asthma and other chronic diseases (see Printed Page 49850 of the proposal). However, the Trump administration is proposing to leave our outdated standards in place instead of strengthening them.
EDF experts testified today about the harmful impacts ozone pollution has on their lives and the need to adopt a more protective health-based standard.
“I live in Denver, Colorado where my daily life is often altered by unhealthy levels of air pollution,” said EDF senior attorney Rachel Fullmer in her testimony. “For me — and the more than 137 million other Americans living in an area with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution — it is critical to reduce this harmful pollution, and there are ample, common sense solutions available to do so. But EPA must first put in place protective national standards.”
“Multiple studies across various states, counties and cities have found that changes in ozone concentrations were associated with higher asthma emergency room visits,” said EDF senior attorney Rosalie Winn in her testimony. “It is estimated that up to 11 [percent] of all asthma emergency room visits in the United States are attributed to ozone.”
Today’s hearing follows a rushed timetable set by then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The review process for the ozone NAAQS has provided insufficient time for adequate scientific review and public participation. The Trump administration is providing only 48-days in total for public review and comment– about half the 90-day comment period provided for the last review of our ground-level ozone standards. EDF’s experts also called on Trump’s EPA to fully allow for scientific review and enable public participation.
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