The U.S Environmental Protection Agency adopted a stricter smog limit Thursday that will force states to reduce emissions over the next decade, improving respiratory health for millions of people through pollution controls that will cost industry billions of dollars.EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy issued a new standard strengthening limits on ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion, down from the 75-ppb standard adopted in 2008 by the Bush administration.
The tighter restrictions will have the greatest impact in California because the state has the nation’s worst air quality and has failed to meet previous ozone standards.The EPA’s long-delayed decision disappointed public health advocates and environmentalists, who had endorsed a 60-ppb standard. They said they were likely to challenge the EPA in court for selecting the weakest option under consideration.“The big polluters won this time, for the most part,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “This is truly a blemish on the president’s environmental legacy.”Industry groups, which waged a fierce lobbying and advertising campaign against new ozone rules, predicted they would stifle economic growth, with power plants, factories and other businesses bearing the burden of costly new controls.The National Assn. of Manufacturers called the revised standard “a punch in the gut” to companies across the country. But the association said a “worst-case scenario was avoided” when the Obama administration chose against the lower proposed standard.Jay Timmons, the association’s president, said, “The new ozone standard will inflict pain on companies that build things in America — and destroy job opportunities for American workers.”Public health advocates, environmentalists and President Obama have pointed to decades of improvements in air quality in California and other states as proof that you can curb pollution without dragging down the economy. The EPA said air pollution has declined by 70% since 1970, while gross domestic product has tripled.Meeting the new smog limit by 2025 will prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and missed school days for children and hundreds of early deaths from cardiovascular disease and other illnesses, according to the EPA.The cost savings from those health benefits will outweigh the billions of dollars in annual costs to industry by about 4 to 1, the agency said.McCarthy’s predecessor at the EPA, Lisa Jackson, had recommended tightening the standard to 65 parts per billion during Obama’s first term. But the president …Read More