EPA Lowers New Ozone Standard for Rest of the Country from 75 to 70 ppb. Texas? Not so Much.

by jim on October 1, 2015

stackpolice(Dallas)—Although they’re happy the Obama Administration is finally following its own scientists’ advice in lowering the national smog standard, local clean air activists say it won’t do North Texas residents much good as long as the state is charged with meeting it.

“When you have a state government that doesn’t believe smog is even a health problem, you’re not going to get effective enforcement of smog standards,” warned Jim Schermbeck, Director of Downwinders at Risk, the two-decade old local clean air group.

EPA officials have scheduled a Thursday afternoon briefing to announce the Agency is lowering the smog standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Although that doesn’t seem like a large change, it’s enough to prevent an additional 325,000 cases of childhood asthma and 1,440 premature deaths every year according to EPA estimates. But those numbers assume nationwide attainment of the standard. Lungs of Texas residents are routinely denied equal protection under the Clean Air Act by a state government that over 20 years has never drafted a successful smog clean-up plan for two of the most chronically-polluted metro areas in the country.

Until only a year ago, DFW was struggling just to meet the obsolete 1997 smog standard. After a mild summer in 2014, smog actually got worse this past summer, with the regional average going up. DFW officially has the worst air in the state, with a higher smog average and more monitors out of compliance. Air quality progress is stagnating. In 2010, the regional average was at 86 ppb. Today, it’s at 83.

“Texas just isn’t serious about doing what it takes to get cleaner air,” said Tamera Bounds of Mansfield Gas Well Awareness. That’s why we need the EPA to take over the job of writing these plans so they stand a chance of actually working.”

Bounds referred to the state’s proposed clean air plan for getting to the current 75 ppb smog standard as nothing but watching a new federal gasoline mix be implemented and piggybacking its impacts. It requires no reductions from any major pollution sources. They know it’s not going to work, and they don’t care.”

Schermbeck said Texas residents can expect more of the same when it comes to meeting a lower, more protective smog standard of 70 ppb.  “If they weren’t concerned about meeting a standard of 85 or 75 in a timely way, it’s hard to imagine they’ll suddenly get religion for one at 70 ppb,” said Schermbeck, “…especially when they’re fighting it in court.”

Although EPA has final approval over any such plan, it’s usually left up to the states to draft them. Downwinders is sponsoring a campaign urging EPA to assume responsibility for writing a new clean air plan for DFW itself. Such a rebuke to a state is rare, but it’s an option under the Clean Air Act. “Breathers in North Texas who need cleaner air don’t have any confidence the state can, or even wants to do the job,” sighed Bounds. “Our only hope is EPA.”

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