State with na­tion’s high­est ozone lev­els plans to cut emissions, in spite of move from Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Tony Bar­boza

Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials say they are forg­ing ahead with emissions-cut­ting mea­sures de­spite the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move this week to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of Oba­maera lim­its on ozone, the lung-sear­ing gas in smog.

U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt told gov­er­nors Tues­day that he was ex­tend­ing by one year a dead­line for them to de­ter­mine which ar­eas of their states vi­o­late fed­eral stan­dards for the pol­lu­tant, cit­ing what he said was a lack of in­for­ma­tion and “in­creased reg­u­la­tory bur­dens, re­stric­tions on in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, and in­creased costs to busi­nesses.”

“We are com­mit­ted to work­ing with states and lo­cal of­fi­cials to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment the ozone stan­dard in a man­ner that is sup­port­ive of air qual­ity im­prove­ment ef­forts with­out in­ter­fer­ing with lo­cal de­ci­sions or im­ped­ing eco­nomic growth,” Pruitt said in a state­ment.

The ex­ten­sion ap­plies to a tougher 70-parts-per-bil­lion limit on ozone the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion EPA adopted in Oc­to­ber 2015.

The move is the lat­est in a se­ries of steps Pruitt has taken to roll back or de­lay Obama-era en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions. The de­ci­sion is ex-

pected to push back fed­eral dead­lines to reach the health stan­dard, al­low­ing states with dirty air, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, to put off the adop­tion of pol­lu­tion-re­duc­tion mea­sures.

Cal­i­for­nia state reg­u­la­tors in­sisted that Pruitt’s de­ci­sion would in no way de­lay the state’s progress in clean­ing the air.

“Cal­i­for­nia is forg­ing ahead with ag­gres­sive ac­tions to re­duce ozone lev­els, ir­re­spec­tive of EPA’s de­lay,” Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board spokesman Stan­ley Young said. “In the mean­time, we be­lieve that EPA can­not back off on its own re­spon­si­bil­ity to set cleaner stan­dards.”

Young cited the “crit­i­cal pub­lic health chal­lenge” of air pol­lu­tion in Los An­ge­les and the San Joaquin Val­ley. He said steps that Cal­i­for­nia reg­u­la­tors are tak­ing to re­duce emissions in the freight and trans­porta­tion sec­tor “will put us on the tra­jec­tory for meet­ing the 70 [parts per bil­lion] stan­dard in any case.”

Ozone is a cor­ro­sive gas that forms when emissions from smoke­stacks and tailpipes cook in the heat and sun­light.

It can trig­ger asthma and other res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia has the na­tion’s worst ozone pol­lu­tion and re­mains far from meet­ing a se­ries of pre­vi­ous fed­eral air qual­ity stan­dards.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists blasted the EPA’s move as a step to­ward rolling back the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s clean-air stan­dards and al­low­ing in­dus­tries to avoid stronger emissions con­trols.

“This de­lay is a fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of the law that de­nies Amer­i­cans their right to safe air free from un­healthy smog pol­lu­tion,” said John Walke, clean air di­rec­tor for the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, an en­vi­ron­men­tal group.

In­dus­try groups waged a fierce lob­by­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign against the 2015 ozone rules, say­ing they would harm busi­nesses by re­quir­ing costly new pol­lu­tion con­trols.

In his pre­vi­ous job as at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ok­la­homa, Pruitt was one of the top le­gal ad­ver­saries seek­ing to block the EPA’s reg­u­la­tions on cli­mate change, clean wa­ter and air qual­ity, su­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over its 2015 ozone stan­dards and other ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal rules.

Af­ter Trump ap­pointed Pruitt ad­min­is­tra­tor, the EPA be­gan re­ex­am­in­ing its ozone rules.

EPA records show all 50 states and the District of Columbia sub­mit­ted rec­om­men­da­tions last year on which ar­eas should be des­ig­nated as meet­ing or vi­o­lat­ing ozone lim­its. None said they had in­suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to do so.

The EPA did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, in­clud­ing ques­tions about what spe­cific in­for­ma­tion it lacks and the po­ten­tial health con­se­quences of the de­lay.

Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers who have long been crit­i­cal of Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions ap­plauded Pruitt’s de­ci­sion.

“This reg­u­la­tion was yet another at­tack on the mid­dle class by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and was forced through de­spite sig­nif­i­cant con­cern from com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try,” U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.) said in a state­ment.

Tougher ozone stan­dards, achieved quickly, would ben­e­fit tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who live in coun­ties with un­healthy air.

That in­cludes 17 mil­lion peo­ple in Los An­ge­les, Or­ange, River­side and San Bernardino coun­ties who breathe the na­tion’s worst pol­luted air. Af­ter decades of re­duc­ing ozone lev­els, progress has fal­tered in re­cent years.

This year, ozone has ex2037 ceeded the 70 ppb stan­dard on 37 days. That’s up from 33 days dur­ing the same time last year and 21 days in 2015, ac­cord­ing to South Coast Air Qual­ity Man­age­ment District data through Mon­day.

Clean-air ad­vo­cates say that means Cal­i­for­nia pol­lu­tion reg­u­la­tors must do more lo­cally to re­duce emissions.

Cal­i­for­nia adopted its own 70 ppb ozone stan­dard in 2005, cit­ing the threat to chil­dren’s health.

AQMD spokesman Sam At­wood said “the best path for­ward to­ward meet­ing this stan­dard is the one we are on now — im­ple­ment­ing all fea­si­ble mea­sures, fos­ter­ing cleaner tech­nolo­gies and ac­cel­er­at­ing de­ploy­ment of zero- and near-zero tech­nolo­gies.”

In 2015, the EPA es­ti­mated that achiev­ing the 70 ppb limit by its 2025 dead­line would pre­vent hun­dreds of thou­sands of asthma at­tacks and missed school days for chil­dren and hun­dreds of early deaths from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and other ill­nesses. It also said the sav­ings from those health ben­e­fits would out­weigh the bil­lions of dol­lars in an­nual costs to the in­dus­try by about 4-1.

Obama gave Cal­i­for­nia ex­tra time to com­ply — un­til — be­cause of the sever­ity of its air pol­lu­tion.

Cal­i­for­nia air qual­ity of­fi­cials say they ex­pect the EPA to ex­tend the dead­line un­til 2038.

Un­der the Clean Air Act, the EPA is re­quired to re­view its air qual­ity stan­dards for ozone and other pol­lu­tants ev­ery five years and ad­just them if nec­es­sary to re­flect the lat­est health sci­ence.

Ozone is such a wide­spread pol­lu­tant that obli­ga­tions to keep re­duc­ing it have vexed pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ge­orge W. Bush re­jected rec­om­men­da­tions for a tougher limit when it adopted the 2008 ozone stan­dard of 75 ppb.

Obama’s EPA vowed to tighten ozone rules but set aside EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa Jack­son’s rec­om­men­da­tion for a 65 ppb stan­dard dur­ing his re­elec­tion bid, leav­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion limit in place.

When his ad­min­is­tra­tion ul­ti­mately tight­ened the stan­dard in 2015, it se­lected a less pro­tec­tive stan­dard than the 60 ppb pub­lic health groups had en­dorsed.

‘Cal­i­for­nia is forg­ing ahead with ag­gres­sive ac­tions to re­duce ozone lev­els, ir­re­spec­tive of EPA’s de­lay.’ — Stan­ley Young Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board spokesman

Shawn Thew Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

EPA AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TOR Scott Pruitt de­liv­ers re­marks af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced the U.S. was with­draw­ing from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord dur­ing a Rose Gar­den event at the White House on June 1.

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