WASHINGTON – A Republican bill to delay, until 2025, the reduction of dangerous ground level ozone is up for a vote this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Each year ground-level ozone pollution causes more than 1,000 premature deaths, millions of asthma attacks and billions of dollars in lost productivity.
The bill, dubbed the “Smoggy Skies” Bill (H.R. 806), comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency announcement late Friday that it will not be improving public-health protections from smog-forming nitrogen oxides.
“Republicans are leading an unprecedented assault on the standards that protect the air we breathe and save thousands of American lives every year,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This appalling bill, coupled with other clean-air rollbacks by the Trump EPA, is sentencing thousands of Americans to life-threatening asthma attacks and lung and heart problems.”
The bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), would allow states to delay meeting the 2015 Clean Air Act standards until 2025; it also creates loopholes and reduces sanctions in some of the smoggiest skies in the country. This follows the announcement last month by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt that he was delaying compliance with the more protective ozone standards.
The proposed rollbacks come as science and public opinion increasingly support the need for improved air-quality standards. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently found that weak U.S. standards for ground-level ozone contribute directly to thousands of premature deaths. And 61 percent of Americans support strong smog protections to reduce the threat of pollution from oil refineries, automobiles and fossil fuels.
Over half of the people living in the United States are at risk from the harmful effects of unhealthy air; studies have found that air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Disadvantaged communities in poorer or minority areas often suffer the worst from air pollution.
“Every American has the right to breathe clean air, but Congress and the Trump administration continue to value the profits of polluters over the health of people,” said Evans.
Under the Obama administration, the EPA set a more protective 2015 ground-level ozone standard of 70 parts per billion. The 2008 standard that would be continued by the Smoggy Skies Bill and EPA chief Pruitt is 75 parts per billion.