You can't blame them for trying: With the White House set to change hands in less than a year's time - likely bringing on board a more eco-friendly administration - industry groups have been pressing the EPA to squelch stricter air-quality standards for ozone, reports the WSJ's Stephen Power. Responding to continuing pressure from environmental and health organizations, such as the American Lung Association, the EPA had just drawn up proposals to (slightly) tighten what were widely considered lax standards - to 0.070 ppm from the current 0.084 ppm.
The new standards are expected to prevent 1,400 - 2,300 nonfatal heart attacks in 2020 and roughly 5,600 - 7,600 hospital-room visits; the costs for certain parts of the U.S. could amount to as much as $18b a year - largely from having to invest in technologies and facilities that would help reduce emissions and cut back on polluting activities.Fortunately - and give credit where credit is due - EPA chief Stephen Johnson (who hasn't endeared himself to many eco-minded people in the past) has backed the new standards in light of new research looking into the health effects of ozone.
Several governors and senators have joined the debate - most noticeably Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour - to argue in favor of the less rigid standards, complaining that they would incur huge job losses and impose new costs. The EPA has said it plans on deciding by March 12 whether or not it will support the tighter standards. In the wake of his recent "deliberations" on California's proposed emissions waiver, Johnson could at least partially redeem himself by bucking industry interests and moving forward with the new standards.