WASHINGTON (March 12, 2008) -- In a move that will begin to protect Americans from dangerous smog but fails to make the nation’s air truly safe to breathe for everyone, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced new standards for the amount of ground-level ozone (or smog) allowed in the air, according to clean air experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The following is a statement from Senior Attorney John Walke, director of NRDC’s Clean Air Program, concerning EPA’s adoption of a new smog standard:
“EPA’s new standard is like lowering the speed limit in a neighborhood from 85 miles per hour to 75. Sure, it’s better, but it still won’t get the job done in keeping folks safe.
“Most of all, we’re disappointed that EPA disregarded the unanimous urgings of its expert science advisors, and instead adopted a standard that science shows will not protect against asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and other lung diseases linked to ozone pollution.
“You can’t argue with the science. Smog levels have to be a lot lower before kids and the elderly can breathe easy across America.”
In the following statement, Walke responds to suggestions by EPA’s Administrator that the Clean Air Act is broken and needs to be “overhauled,” including a change to allow economic costs to be considered in defining clean air:
“The only thing that needs to be overhauled is EPA’s defective judgment and unwillingness to protect the American people under this administration. Today’s Clean Air Act, in the hands of future, more responsible EPAs, will continue to protect the public. Thankfully for the health of Americans, the Clean Air Act will outlive this administration.
“It is cynical and deeply irresponsible for the EPA administrator to suggest that defining air that is safe to breathe should be poisoned by economics and cost considerations. The American people have a right to healthy air being defined truthfully based on science and medicine – not presented dishonestly based on economics and what big polluters are willing to pay.
“The administrator’s call to weaken the law to avoid health-protective standards – coupled with his adoption of unprotective standards today – also raises the very disturbing question whether EPA has short-circuited the law and acted based on unspoken, illegal cost considerations. Science cannot explain or justify the Administrator’s decision, so the public deserves to know whether the Administrator’s fervor for a weaker law in the future drove him to break the law today.”