Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

EPA Tightens Ozone Pollution Limits

Utah Department of Transportation

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy announced plans Wednesday to tighten limits on ground-level ozone pollution.

“The science clearly tells us that ozone poses a real threat to our health,” said McCarthy in a conference call with reporters, “especially to growing children and older Americans and those of us with heart or lung conditions and those who are active or who work outside.”

McCarthy points out that federal law requires her agency to base regulations on the latest research on pollution and health.

The current standard for smog, as its often called is 75 parts per billion, and Utah just barely meets it. The EPA will take public comments in coming weeks on its proposal to lower allowable ozone pollution concentrations to between 70 ppb and 65 ppb.

The head of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality told Congress last year that much of the West has very high background ozone. Stricter standards, she said, could make virtually all of Utah out of compliance.

“There are going to be some places in Utah where it’s going to be more challenging,” said Donna Spangler, DEQ spokeswoman.

“We do actually have some issues that we really need to address, and we’re hoping to do that during the public comment opportunity.”

EPA contends that its new pollution controls on cars and industry already go a long way toward cleaning up the air throughout the nation. In fact, it predicts that every Utah county will comply in about a decade. EPA says the medical and economic savings could be as high as $13 billion nationwide.

“All the data, all the economic literature,” says Cherise Udell, founder of the Utah Moms for Clean Air, “shows that clean air and a healthy economy go together, hand in hand.”

She applauds EPA’s move and calls it a smart investment.  

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.