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Breathing Easier as EPA Rescinds Smog-Standard Delay

Smog causes hundreds of premature deaths nationally every year. (Robert Young/Flickr)
Smog causes hundreds of premature deaths nationally every year. (Robert Young/Flickr)
August 7, 2017

NEW YORK – Environmental and public health groups are breathing a sigh of relief that the Environmental Protection Agency will not postpone implementation of standards for smog-forming ozone.

In June, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the standards, scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, would be put on hold for a year.

Fifteen states, including New York, and a coalition of organizations last week filed a lawsuit challenging that decision. The EPA rescinded the postponement the next day.

Graham McCahan, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, says the delay would have been "unlawful" and had been imposed without considering the impact of smog on children, asthma sufferers, the elderly and anyone with heart or respiratory problems.

"So this is a really welcome development that they have reversed course and we can begin getting these emission reductions in place as soon as possible," he states.

Pruitt had maintained there was confusion among the states over the standard's requirements, and that the EPA needed to review the regulations.

But McCahan points out that the states already have collected the data and made their recommendations to the EPA for designating areas that need to improve air quality.

"Now the ball is in EPA's court and they have a legal deadline of Oct. 1 to either accept those recommendations or tweak them,” McCahan states. “But, generally speaking, the EPA accepts the recommendations of the states."

According to EPA data, when fully implemented, the smog standard will prevent about 660 premature deaths, 230,000 childhood asthma attacks and 28,000 missed workdays each year.

Meeting the standard will require reducing pollution from all sources, including cars, power plants and factories. McCahan adds, the states can't do it on their own.

"It's a cooperative framework under the Clean Air Act between the states and the federal government, and it's important that the federal government hold up its end of the bargain," he points out.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY