You probably already saw the news story on the subject of this release from the Southern Environmental Law Center that came in Wednesday, but I thought you might be interested in the graphic above, so I pass it on now.
The SELC’s point is that the EPA’s new standard isn’t stringent enough. That seems like a bit like arguing about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin from a Columbia standpoint, though: We can’t even meet the lower standard. The release:
South Carolina Upstate and Midlands still plagued by
unhealthy air, according to EPA
new standard fails to adequately protect public health, say environmentalists
and public health professionals
Chapel Hill, NC – New standards released today by the Environmental Protection Agency show most of the South Carolina Upstate and Midlands have unhealthy levels of ozone, including the Florence region, home to a new power plant proposal that will increase the region’s ozone levels. The new standards go further to protect the public’s health from ozone pollution, but fall short of the recommendations of public health professionals and EPA’s own scientists which recommended stronger protections.
“Unfortunately EPA has chosen to bow to political interests over the public’s health by releasing a ozone standard that falls short of the recommendations of doctors and other public health professionals. The fact that more cities than ever are being tagged as having unhealthy air should serve as a wake up call to all South Carolinians that this is a widespread and protracted problem,” said David Farren, senior attorney with the non profit Southern Environmental Law Center.
Under the new standard, Columbia, and Greenville are expected to remain in violation of the federal standard, otherwise known as being in “nonattainment,” while smaller cities such as Chester, Lancaster, Newberry and Seneca will likely be added to the list. These areas will face deadlines to reach the new standard or risk federal sanctions including tighter smokestacks controls and the possible loss of federal highway money.
“What we’re seeing is that unhealthy air is not just an urban problem,” said Farren. “Even small and mid-sized cities are going to have to tackle their air problems in order to protect the health of their citizens.”
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must set air quality standards at levels that protect public health, including sensitive populations, with an adequate margin of safety. In 1997, EPA set the national air quality standard for ozone at 0.08 parts per million (ppm) averaged over an eight hour period. The standard announced today is a slightly more stringent 0.075 ppm. However, in 2006, an EPA panel of scientists and public health experts unanimously recommended strengthening the ozone standard even lower, to within the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm, to adequately protect public health.
Power plants are a leading contributor to ozone pollution. In fact, the proposed Pee Dee plant will emit 3500 tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides each year under the existing draft air permit.
In addition to coal fired power plants, cars and trucks are among the biggest sources of ozone pollution in the South. To improve air quality, South Carolina must focus on strategies to reduce how much and how far its citizens drive such as investing in transportation alternatives and coordinating transportation and land use planning to reduce sprawl. Recently enacted reform of the state’s transportation department, if faithfully carried out, should aid in this work.
Lobbyists representing the oil, coal, electric power and manufacturing industries lobbied heavily against improved air pollution standards in the weeks leading up to the decision. However, EPA and OMB studies repeatedly show heath care costs and lost productivity far outweigh costs of clean up.
Ozone pollution, also known as smog, is known to trigger asthma attacks, reduce lung capacity, and has even been linked to heart disease and premature death. At its worst on hot, dry weather, ozone pollution causes officials to warn children and the elderly to stay indoors on many summer days. Children, whose respiratory systems are still developing, risk permanent loss of lung capacity through prolonged exposure to polluted air. For senior citizens, the natural decline in lung function that occurs with age is worsened by air pollution.