California’s San Joaquin Valley in 2016 exceeded the 2008 national 8-hour ozone health standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) 88 times – a jump of six over 2015’s total. Regarding the more stringent 70 ppb standard, one that would have been more protective of public health, and incidentally, the one approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in Oct. 2015, just so you’re aware, what the Valley would have witnessed in that regard was failure on 112 days.
Meanwhile, in the Golden State’s South Coast air basin last year, 107 exceedances of the earlier established national 8-hour standard for ozone, incidentally, were recorded – up from the 81 exceedance days registered in 2015. For 2016, had the 70 ppb standard been in effect, the number of days that that threshold would have been eclipsed by would have been 25, or a total of 132 days, in other words – residents having to deal with (meaning seeing and breathing in) unhealthy smog for better than a full third of a year.
All of which points to ozone pollution in two of California’s dirtier air regions seeing worsening, not improvement, and no less in a state year after year known notoriously in the U.S. for having some of nation’s worst air – and not just for ozone but fine particulate matter, too.
Declares the environmental watchdog group Earthjustice in an Apr. 12, 2017 press release: “The EPA estimates that, by 2025, the 2015 standard will save hundreds of lives, prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 160,000 missed school days for kids each year. Although stronger than the prior 2008 standard, leading medical societies have found that an even more protective standard is needed to safeguard children, asthmatics, seniors and others.”
All things considered, why would the national governmental regulatory agency, you know, the one charged with protecting the environment and by extension the health of the American public, even consider approaching the Circuit Court in Washington, D.C. at all and, of all things, request delay regarding implementation of the 70 ppb ozone-health standard? What part of the notion that a tighter, more stringent ozone standard is more protective of public health does the EPA apparently not understand?
In its Apr. 12th release: “Court Grants EPA Request for Delay in Smog Standards Battle: Environmental and health groups will continue to fight to protect public health,” Earthjustice explains:
“A federal court late Tuesday afternoon granted a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to delay court proceedings over the more protective 2015 smog standards. The agency had requested the delay to give it additional time to review those standards.
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the EPA’s request in a summary order.
“Attorneys for public health and environmental organizations think the delay is likely an indication that the federal government will seek to stop defending or weaken implementation of the smog standards.”
“‘Any honest review by EPA will make clear that there is no legal or scientific basis to worsen clean air safeguards for Americans,’” Natural Resources Defense Council Clean Air Director John Walke in the release added. “‘NRDC will vigorously oppose in court any attempt by the Trump administration to sabotage Americans’ right to safe air quality.’”
Environmental and health groups concurred, Earthjustice further emphasizing that by hampering forward progress regarding the 70 ppb standard, lives would be endangered, in essence.
Meanwhile, “In October 2015, following litigation by health and environmental groups for missing its legally required deadline to review the ozone standard, the EPA established a more protective standard further limiting the amount of smog allowed in the air people breathe,” Earthjustice in the release in question went on to write.
“In addition to defending the current standard, public health and environmental organizations sued EPA to further strengthen the standard, arguing that a 70 ppb standard still allowed smog levels that the EPA’s own scientific research showed harmed people and plants. Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the National Parks Conservation Association in that challenge.”
Image credit: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute