I would be highly suspicious of anything the Bush Administration does on any front between now and when the President leaves office in January of 2009. In this regard, it’s being reported that the Environmental Protection Agency is asking Congress to rewrite the Clean Air Act. The EPA has limited the allowable amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion, a level significantly higher than what the agency’s scientific advisers had urged for this key component of unhealthy air pollution. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson is pushing for the rewrite of the nearly 37-year-old Clean Air Act. He wants to allow regulators to take into consideration the cost and feasibility of controlling pollution when making decisions about air quality, something that is currently prohibited by the law. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the government needed to base the ozone standard strictly on protecting public health, with no regard to cost.
The new pollution rules – one of the most important environmental decisions facing the Bush Administration in the president’s final year in office – will be a major factor in determining the quality of the air Americans will breathe for at least a decade. The standards, which are aimed at protecting both public health and welfare, are designed to limit the amount of nitrogen oxides and other chemical compounds released into the air by vehicles, manufacturing facilities, and power plants. In sunlight, the pollutants form ozone.
The EPA recently set a lower but still less-restrictive limit than what the EPA’s advisory committees had recommended. Democratic lawmakers, public health advocates, and the EPA’s own independent advisers hit the ceiling. Hopefully, with Democrats in control of Congress, the proposal to rewrite the Clean Air Act will be unsuccessful. Nearly a year ago, the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reiterated in writing that its members were “unanimous in recommending” that the agency set the standard no higher than 70 parts per billion (ppb) and to consider a limit as low as 60 ppb. EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee and public health advocates lobbied for the 60-ppb limit because children are more vulnerable to air pollution.
The EPA and other scientists have shown that ozone has a direct impact on rates of heart and respiratory disease and resulting premature deaths. The agency calculates that the new standard of 75 ppb would prevent 1,300 to 3,500 premature deaths a year, whereas 65 ppb would avoid 3,000 to 9,200 deaths annually. Under the Clean Air Act, the federal government is obligated to reexamine the science underpinning its smog standards every five years. The agency last revised the standards in 1997, and 85 counties have yet to meet those rules. If you agree that the Bush Administration’s efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act should be defeated, contact your U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives and ask them to oppose the efforts.
Source: Washington Post
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