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Debate Continues over New Ozone Pollution Standards

PHOTO: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ozone pollution standards. Industry groups are pushing back, claiming new regulations would damage the economy. Denver received a D grade on the American Lung Association's State of the Air report card for 2014. Photo credit: Stilfehler/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ozone pollution standards. Industry groups are pushing back, claiming new regulations would damage the economy. Denver received a D grade on the American Lung Association's State of the Air report card for 2014. Photo credit: Stilfehler/Wikimedia Commons.
April 22, 2015

DENVER - Warmer weather is on the way, the time of year when ozone -- the lung-damaging gas in smog -- becomes a bigger problem for the 26 million Americans living with asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency said current ozone standards don't go far enough to protect public health and has proposed increasing protections to reduce pollution. Politicians have been slow to embrace stronger protections.

Eloy Garduno, vice president of the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement, said clean air is worth fighting for.

"I just think we just have to do this," he said. "I'm not going to stop, and I'm not going to be quiet when not only my kids but all the kids are running, and what else are they breathing? Why should we have to fight for clean air? That should be just a right that we have."

Industry groups and their allies in Congress say the new standards could hurt the economy. But public health organizations and environmental and community groups submitted a half million comments in support of a stronger EPA ozone standard, in part because, according to the agency's analysis, reducing ozone levels could save more than 4,000 lives and prevent nearly 1 million asthma attacks.

The American Petroleum Institute said the standard could be the costliest regulation ever imposed on the American public, but the EPA projected that reducing pollution could save billions of dollars in health-care costs annually. Garduno said the benefits outweigh the costs.

"That's just an easy excuse, to say, 'Oh, that's going to cost us jobs.' Does it cost a little bit of money, yes," he said, "but what we're saving in the long run is more than just dollars and cents."

Garduno said the EPA's decision has significance for cities in Colorado with high ozone levels. Denver received a D grade on the American Lung Association's State of the Air report card in 2014. The EPA is under court order to finalize standards by Oct 1.

The EPA proposal is online at epa.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO