HARRISBURG – Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new ground level ozone standards ignore the recommendations of the agency’s own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and consequently, do not go far enough in protecting human health and the environment. Pennsylvania has urged the EPA to adopt the committee’s recommendations in setting the new acceptable levels for ozone.
“I am disappointed the EPA administrator ignored the advice of his own scientific advisory committee in setting the new ozone level that is intended to protect people’s health,” said McGinty. “Sound science must be used in setting public policy, and that has not happened in this case. Unfortunately, this action is in keeping with the EPA’s track record of ignoring science and making decisions based on politics.”
The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which includes members from academia and private research institutions, recommended the standard be set between 60 and 70 parts per billion of ozone in order to protect human health. The federal agency today set the standard above that recommendation at 75 parts per billion.
“Last fall, the commonwealth offered testimony before the EPA that the decision on new ozone standards should be based on scientific advisory committee’s recommendations,” said McGinty. “The federal Clean Air Act is clear that protecting the public’s health must be the driving force in setting primary standards, but EPA has not adhered to that requirement.” Pennsylvania and other states must monitor the air for ozone and other pollutants, and take steps to meet the EPA-set standards. Air containing ozone measured at 84 parts per billion meets the present standard.
“Under Governor Rendell’s leadership, Pennsylvania has been working hard to clean our air,” said McGinty. “We have implemented the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program, which is putting cleaner running cars on the road, and have worked to reduce idling by commercial diesel vehicles. Pennsylvania is also establishing stricter rules for air emissions from electric power plants, other industries and consumer products.”
McGinty added that because of those state efforts, air quality in 25 of 37 Pennsylvania counties that was designated as nonattainment by the EPA in June 2004 now meets the current standard.
“Regardless of EPA’s decision on the new ozone standard, Pennsylvania will continue to work vigorously so that the air our citizens breathe is cleaner, helping them to lead healthier lives,” said McGinty.
Ground level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds bake in the sun. Ozone is particularly harmful to people with respiratory problems, including asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, and can worsen health problems for people with existing heart conditions. Ozone is a key component of smog.