On July 12th, environmental groups sued the EPA because it delayed the so-called smog rule which was written during the Obama years. In 2015, the agency reduced the threshold for acceptable ozone levels from 75 parts per million (ppm), which was the 2008 standard, to 70 ppm. Ever since 2015, environmental organizations have fought tooth and nail with fossil fuel industries to ensure that those standards were not interrupted. Secretary Scott Pruitt dealt a deathly blow to environmental health with the recent “Designation Delay.”
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According to the lawsuit, the EPA’s June 6th decision to delay the execution of the smog rule was unlawful. Thus, the suit declared, the court should force the agency to stay the delay and continue with the Obama-era plan. The lawsuit alluded to the requirements set forth by the Clean Air Act, which clearly states that the EPA must ensure that air in the US meets the agency’s standards and specifically that ground-level ozone be reduced. In the words of the lawsuit: “Simply put, delay of designations delays the stronger pollution controls Congress mandated to protect people in communities with unhealthy air.”
Earthjustice attorney Seth Johnson agreed: “It’s illegal and wrong. It forces the most vulnerable people, like children, people with asthma and the elderly, to continue to suffer from dangerous ozone pollution. The EPA is wrong to put its polluter friends’ profits before people’s health.”
Truly Unnecessary Delay
Mustafa Ali, who co-founded the environmental justice program at the EPA, said the suit was absolutely justified. “You can always work with states that are not moving quickly, you can build some accommodation into the process,” he told Reuters. Thus, Ali contended, if the EPA was really concerned with meeting “statutory deadlines” – as suggested by agency spokeswoman Liz Bowman – then it could do this without the delay. “How long do these communities need to wait? What we’re really doing is playing with their lives,” said Ali.
House Passes Relevant Legislation
On July 18th, the House passed a bill, with a party-line vote of 229 to 199, that would severely limit the EPA’s ability to ensure the cleanliness of the country’s air. The legislation (HR 806) would further the EPA’s effort to delay the Obama-era standards by recalibrating the review timetable, so that the agency would be required to revisit standards every 10 years as opposed to every five.
Public Health Impact
It’s important to note that this is not an abstract problem. The effort to delay the smog rule poses serious health risks. The ozone problem looms large in environmental and public health concerns. Ozone can cause a whole slew of health problems, including but not limited to a decrease in respiratory functionality. And where does one find breathable ozone? Wherever there is smog.
For this reason, 13 health organizations lambasted the bill in an open letter dubbing the legislation “the “Smoggy Skies Act, as it delays lifesaving standards to reduce ozone pollution, or smog, and permanently weakens the Clean Air Act.”
And people seem to be aware of this necessity of “lifesaving standards.” According to a poll conducted by Global Strategy Group, 61 percent of voters believe the smog rule should be upheld while 27 percent want the regulation to be stricken.
Ever Prevalent Special Interest Groups
But the current administration and a large portion of Congress don’t make it a point to listen to the people whom they supposedly represent. Rather, politicians, like EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt and Representative Pete Olson (R-TX) who introduced HR 806, prefer to listen to the special interest groups clambering to pull back every environmental regulation that ever existed. In some cases, the EPA has gone to extraordinary lengths to further the goals of special interest groups.
For industries, regulations like the smog rule pose a threat to profits. In their eyes, this threat trumps the great health risks posed to people all over the country.