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EPA tightens smog rule, repudiates Bush

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency is formally announcing a revision to the allowable amount of ground-level ozone, aka smog. The current standard is 0.075 ppm, but the EPA will revise it downward to 0.060 to 0.070 ppm.

As a native of Los Angeles, I’m thrilled. However, I take almost as much joy in watching the slow righting of the many wrongs perpetrated by the Bush administration.

First, the good news:

“EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face. Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease. It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.”

The agency is proposing to set the “primary” standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. Children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are most likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults are also sensitive to ozone.

For the chemically-minded among us, the EPA is regulating ground level ozone, the primary constituent of smog. Ozone (O3) is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but at ground-level is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents as well as natural sources emit NOx and VOC that help form ozone.

Officially, the EPA needs to wait 60 days between proposing a rule and enacting it. During the 60 days, the nation’s smog producers, e.g., coal-dependent electric utilities, will howl.

In the dark days of March 2008, the EPA proposed doing the exact same thing, based on the unanimous recommendation of its scientists. They were prevented from doing so by none other than George W. Bush, who personally intervened following electric utility protests, part of a widespread pattern of meddling in environmental science.

Somehow, I think Lisa Jackson and President Obama will have better things to do than to indulge the whines of the nation’s worst polluters.

(xposted at DailyKos)

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