EPA Delays Announcement of a New Threshold for Ozone Pollution
July 26, 2011, 8:36pm
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News Release from Alamo Area Council of Governments
San Antonio, July 26, 2011 -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that while it will not meet its July 29 deadline to issue a new standard for allowable ground-level ozone pollution (commonly referred to as smog), it remains fully committed to doing so once a review by the White House Office of Management and Budget is complete.
In January 2010, the agency first notified the public that it would set a new threshold for ground-level ozone within the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) following further consideration of a recommendation from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent committee of scientific experts. The EPA said that the 2008 standard of 75 ppb that was adopted by the previous administration did not go far enough to adequately protect human health and the environment.
The EPA’s standard for allowable ground-level ozone pollution is based on the three-year average of the fourth-highest eight-hour average ozone concentrations measured at regulatory pollution monitors in the area. For the period from 2008 through 2010, San Antonio barely maintained its status as the largest U.S. city in full compliance with all national air quality standards, with its three-year average of 75 ppb being the highest level allowed under the 2008 standard.
During the 2011 ozone season, which stretches from April 1 through October 31, the San Antonio MSA has so far twice exceeded the level at which ozone pollution is potentially harmful to those in sensitive groups (children, those with lung ailments, and those who work or exercise outside). With some of the historically worse months for ozone pollution (August through September) still ahead, our current (2009 through 2011) three-year average of fourth-highest readings is 74 ppb.
Should we be found in nonattainment of the EPA’s standards, the San Antonio MSA may then be subject to governmental regulations that could, for example, require new or expanding businesses to reduce overall pollution levels to offset their proposed growth. Another possible regulation is that transportation planners would be required to prove that adding capacity to the roadway system would not increase pollution from cars and trucks in order to qualify for federal highway funds to make the proposed roadway improvements.
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