The Environmental Protection
Agency proposed on Thursday reducing allowable smog by as much as 20
percent in coming decades, setting up a battle with business and
industry groups that feel current standards are adequate.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said existing federal standards do
not adequately protect the public.
"Based on the current science, the standard today is not sufficient
to protect the public health, and so I am proposing to toughen the
standard," Johnson said when announcing the proposal.
The administrator also said, however, that the agency will formally
take comments from business and industry groups, who strongly believe
current standards should not be changed.
If finalized, the new rules would roughly triple the number of U.S.
counties failing to comply with federal air pollution regulations, and
business groups say meeting the new limits could cost tens of billions
of dollars. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA cannot take financial
considerations into account when proposing safe pollution standards.
Johnson said he was allowing the comments even though he concluded
the existing standard does not protect the public health.
The agency will take comments as well from those who agree with an
independent committee of scientists that advised the EPA to set an even
stricter ozone standard than the one Johnson proposed Thursday. As
outlined by Johnson, the EPA has proposed that the allowable amount of
smog in the air be reduced from 84 parts per billion to between 70 and
75 parts per billion.
June 22, 2007