New EPA Ozone Standard Overdue – But Could Have Gone Further to Protect the Public

Statement by Gretchen Goldman, Lead Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 1, 2015

Washington (October 1, 2015)—The Environmental Protection Agency has set a new standard on ambient ground-level ozone to meet a court ordered deadline. At 70 parts per billion (ppb), the standard is the weakest within the range recommended by the agency’s science advisors.

Below is a statement by Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Since 1997, the EPA’s panel of external experts, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), has recommended an ambient ozone standard of at most 70 ppb. The EPA chose to set the standard here—the most lenient rule possible given the agency's responsibilities to set the standard at a level that protects public health.

"It is commendable that the EPA is finally following the advice of its science advisors, after years of delay in tightening the outdated standard. However, the scientific evidence suggests that this standard might not be strong enough. The EPA is legally obliged to set a standard based on public health. CASAC said in its recommendation to the agency that a 70-ppb rule may not protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, and observed that, at 70 ppb, there is 'substantial scientific evidence of adverse effects.'

"There's a real public health cost of a weaker ozone standard, and that cost falls hardest on the most vulnerable—the elderly, young children and those suffering from respiratory problems. Reducing ozone pollution is technically achievable and it's long overdue. But the EPA could have gone further in protecting the public by following the recommendations of scientists and public health experts.”