Recap from the TX and VA EPA Smog Hearings
The many people who attended yesterday's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on its proposed ozone/smog rule are calling them a success. The proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard follows the recommendation of EPA scientists and numerous health groups, setting the limit between 60 and 70 parts per billion - and we strongly support this move.
We had great numbers of concerned citizens, scientists, doctors and more turn out at the hearings in Houston, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the need for stronger standards on ozone - which is also known as smog.
In Houston, our Lone Star chapter teamed up with the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention to state the facts on the risks of smog. The coalition got some good media coverage before and after the event, including their live-blog on DailyKos - and they even made this fantastic video of it all.
Almost twenty leaders of national and local health and environmental organizations testified - as well a teen with asthma. "I've been hospitalized many times with asthma attacks. It's scary when you can't catch your breath. When I was young, going to the hospital with asthma was a monthly thing," said 14-year old asthma patient Aaron Smith, who attended the EPA hearing with his mother Rosa Smith. The Smith family lives near the Houston refineries.
"Now I'm on an adult dose of asthma medicine and the only other way to manage the asthma is to limit my outdoor activities. That's hard to do at 14. My doctor's even talking to me about moving away from Houston's pollution when I go to college."
Those health risks for everyone from young to old add up in days missed at work or school, healthcare costs and more, said many who testified in Houston.
Of course, many industry representatives were on hand to oppose the proposed EPA standards, claiming it would hurt their businesses and that they've already taken many smog-preventing measures. From a NY Times article:
The proposed lower standards also drew fire from manufacturers and oil and gas companies, who fear they will bear the brunt of the costs of cutting down the volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that cause smog. Some issued dire warnings of jobs being cut to pay for it.In the end, the coalition maintained a positive outlook on the challenge of smog prevention.
"It will have a devastating impact on the chemical industry," said Christina Wisdom, of the Texas Chemical Council.
"In Texas, we've been cleaning up the air for forty years so we can do this. We've done it before," said Neil Carman, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Clean Air Program Director -- a chemist and former Texas state air regulator. "Science tells us that the current smog standards fail to protect the health of millions of Americans. We are very happy to see EPA proposing much-needed protections against ground level ozone. A 60 parts per billion ozone standard is exactly what we need to make our air healthy to breathe."
Meanwhile, in Arlington, Virginia, the day's hearing started off with a press conference from the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, and many other coalition members.
"We need to reduce ozone levels so we can all breathe easier," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch at the press conference.
Clean Skies put together a great video on the day's events - so I wanted to include that here.
The NY Times/Greenwire also had a solid article on the Arlington hearing.
Branden Grubb, an intern for the energy and global warming team in the Sierra Club legislative office, was able to attend the Arlington hearing as well.
"Dr. Alfred Munzer (of the American Lung Association) spoke about the impact that ground level ozone (smog) is having on his patients," said Grubb. He explained that one of his patients was actually supposed to accompany him at the press conference and testify at the hearing, but had previously been admitted to the hospital due to her illness that had been affected by ground level ozone."
Grubb added that another speaker that stuck with him was one who spoke about the negative affects of smog on children and asked the crowd to imagine what it would be like if the children were only allowed to have indoor recess.
There's one more hearing to go - tomorrow (Thursday), February 4th out in Sacramento, California. Our chapter folks have gotten good media lead-up for the hearing and expect a great turnout at the hearing and the mid-day rally they're planning. If you're in the area, you should check it out.
If you didn't get to attend any of the hearings, you can still submit comments in support of this proposed smog rule using our website. You can also listen to the audio of the Houston hearing on the EPA website.
Thanks to Javier Sierra and Ivy Main for the photos.