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President Sells Out To Polluters

President Obama killed a new set of air quality control regulations this week. They were formulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and were meant to replace the existing regulations. The President’s “excuse” was that there will be a new set of regulations in 2013 anyway and now isn’t the time to burden industry with extra regulations. He seems to believe that if he appeases them by letting them carry on polluting at current levels they’ll create jobs. He’s wrong, of course. They’ll continue shipping jobs overseas and laughing all the way to the bank. The fact that the US Chamber of Commerce, a right wing pressure group, not a government organization, agrees with his action means that he has been conned, or bullied, into doing this by big industrial interests.

Let’s look at just one air quality indicator – ozone levels. The current legislation limits the amount of ozone in the air to a maximum of 75 parts per billion. That level was mandated in 2008, even though the EPA’s own scientific advisors had recommended limiting ozone in the air to an average of between 60 and 70 parts per billion over an eight-hour period. The new ruling would have set the level at 60. However, enormous pushback by industry means that we’re stuck with the 75 ppb regulation for the foreseeable future.

Does it matter?
In short, yes. We’re a lot better off than we were thirty years ago, when many areas experienced unhealthy levels of ozone for large parts of the year. At levels of 101-150 ppb many groups are at risk, including:

  • People with lung disease, such as asthma
  • Children and older adults
  • People who are active outdoors

However, 75 ppb is still too high. The Europeans recognize the problem and have set their regulatory levels for ozone at 57 ppb. The US level is above the threshold where European governments can be fined if their country exceeds the threshold more than 25 days a year. Their laws say that at 85 ppb – “National authorities should inform the public and give advice immediately after an exceedance. Countries should report monthly on all exceedances.”

What is our air quality actually like today?
You can check the air quality where you live and work at http://airnow.gov. When we checked the site yesterday, one of the worst areas in the country was in the home state of Koch Industries, the nations’s tenth worst polluter. There are problems today across about 10% of the country. The bad thing about something that’s invisible is that people tend not to worry about it. Our President should know better than that.

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