EPA Considers Tougher Ozone Standard

The Environmental Protection Agency is coming to Houston to hear testimony on whether the agency should change the eight-hour ozone standard. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more on what the EPA will be considering.

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In a day-long hearing the EPA will take testimony and public comment on a proposed new ozone rule. EPA Regional Spokesman Dave Bary says the agency is considering the revision based on new scientific evidence about ozone and it's effect on people and public welfare.

"The agency proposed to revise the current eight-hour standard for ozone by reducing it to a point somewhere between .070 and .075 parts per million of air. By contrast, the current standard is .085 parts per million. I think it's important to note that there has been no final decision on the new standard yet."

Houston is one of five cities where the EPA is taking testimony on the proposed revision. Brandt Mannchen is the Air Quality chair for the Lone Star Sierra Club, as well as the Houston chapter. He says the EPA's scientific advisory panel reports the current ozone standard is not stringent enough to protect public health.

"It also stated unanimously that it recommends a range of .060 parts per million to .070 parts per million. So we're definitely in good company when the EPA's own scientific advisory panel states that the standard should be somewhere in the range that the Sierra Club is also advocating."

The EPA will consider lowering the standard to less than 70 parts per million, but the most likely scenario is a new standard between 70 and 75. No final decision will be made until March of next year. The Sierra Club isn't the only group lobbying for tougher restrictions on ozone levels. Mothers for Clean Air, GHASP and TexPIRG are also testifying in favor of the stricter eight-hour standard. Of course, tougher standards mean a tougher time for Houston when it comes to attainment. Bary says that's one of the reasons the EPA is seeking input from Houstonians.

p>"It's a very important meeting. It's of especially important interest to residents in the Houston area because Houston is one of the major urban areas in the country that continues to fail to meet federal air quality standards for ozone."

The EPA will take testimony from 9am to 9pm, September 5th at the Marriot West Loop. The agency is also accepting written statements through their website. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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