In setting smog rules to protect health, consensus-building absolute

It was just the other day, in fact, that I wrote about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) being tasked with setting all new ozone health standards – primary and secondary standards. If ever there is a case where far easier said than done is the process of finding agreement with respect to what those new standards should be, then, without question, this has to be it.

We’ve seen something similar to this before.

From days past also, the last time new smog standards were set was in 2008 and that being 75 parts per billion (ppb). Even this had replaced an earlier standard of 84 ppb, set in 1997.

And to think, the above has only to do with deciding on what standards should be for just one pollutant – ozone.

There is reason, obviously, prior smog standards, now deemed outdated, are under review.

So, looking at this strictly from an air quality and health implications standpoint, here’s the rub: “EPA scientists examined numerous scientific studies in its most recent review of the ozone standards, including more than 1,000 new studies published since the last update. Studies indicate that exposure to ozone at levels below 75 ppb – the level of the current standard – can pose serious threats to public health, harm the respiratory system, cause or aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and is linked to premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes.” This was, in fact, written in the EPA’s Nov. 26, 2014 news release: “EPA Proposes Smog Standards to Safeguard Americans from Air Pollution.”

Therefore, establishing standards that would be in both the U.S. public’s and the environment’s best interests, simple, right? Far from it. What in my view should be a consensus-building exercise to determine the correct public and environmental ozone health thresholds ultimately doing what is in the public’s and the environment’s best interests, the matter now before us is a far more complicated one. Instead of this alone being a: protect-human-and-environmental-health-only matter, so, so sadly, what this has morphed into is “a protect human and environmental health versus a protect jobs and economic health” debate. Are we missing the whole point of this issue? It should not come down to an “it has to be a one or the other” situation, rather, it is my firm belief this should be a “how to protect human and environmental health while at the same time protecting jobs and the economy” discussion.


Simply stated, all of that which is being discussed here are quality-of-life issues. And who here, whether directly or indirectly involved in this well, for lack of a better descriptor, debate, isn’t for quality-of-life improvement?

And, oh so unneeded in this regard is gridlock.

To this I say: If it can be demonstrated that in working toward a cleaner, greener environment that in doing such neither eliminates jobs nor hurts the economy, well, this should speak volumes. California, I believe, more than any other U.S. state exemplifies this very ideal.

Ideological differences aside and provided the will is there, the means or way will be there as well to work through differences, coming to agreement and setting ozone standards, not just to the mutual satisfaction but to the mutual benefit, of all concerned.

Remember: consensus-building, not gridlock, is key.

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