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National Debate on Smog Plan Comes to Texas Today

PHOTO: Houston is ranked as the sixth most polluted city in the nation in terms of ozone, but improvements could be coming with an EPA proposal to strengthen standards. Photo credit: Matthew Rutledge/Flickr.
PHOTO: Houston is ranked as the sixth most polluted city in the nation in terms of ozone, but improvements could be coming with an EPA proposal to strengthen standards. Photo credit: Matthew Rutledge/Flickr.
January 29, 2015

ARLINGTON, Texas – Residents of the Lone Star State are among the few getting a chance to comment in person on a proposed national rule to cut smog by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Two public hearings on the proposed updates to air-quality standards for ozone are set for today.

One is being held in Washington and the other in Arlington, Texas.

That's where Dr. Donna Upson, pulmonary physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico, will argue that strengthening the standard from 75 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion is critical to public health.

"Levels of airway obstruction increase in healthy individuals after just a limited exposure to ozone levels higher than 59 parts per billion,” she says. “So really, we're all at risk of the dangers of ozone and we have the technology and the policy that we can decrease levels."

Those against changing the smog pollution limits, including many Texas Republicans, say it would mean higher energy bills for families, and that would negatively impact the economy.

But Dr. Georges Benjamin with the American Public Health Association says the country's Gross Domestic Product has and will continue to grow regardless of pollution limits, which help prevent asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature deaths.

"The science tells us that we save more lives if we bring the number down lower,” he states. “As to the argument that it's going to cost all of this money to do it, we hear that every time we try to lower the numbers and history tells us that is just not true.”

Those opposed, including the American Petroleum Institute (API), also say the current standards are working, but Paul G. Billings, senior vice president for advocacy and education of the American Lung Association, notes that more than 2,000 peer-reviewed medical studies were examined by the EPA.

"And then a group of 20 independent scientists reviewed that information and very clearly told the EPA that the current standard is not protective of public health and a much tighter, protective standard is needed for the American people," he states.

According to the American Lung Association, when it comes to ozone, Houston and Dallas-Forth Worth are among the top 10 most polluted cities in the nation.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX