Chair Castor Urges EPA To Protect Americans From Dangerous Ozone
WASHINGTON (August 31, 2020) - On Monday, Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis urged the Trump administration to strengthen clean air protections for all Americans, specifically against harmful ozone pollution, during a public hearing held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposal to retain the deficient current Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Via teleconference, Chair Castor made the following remarks:
“I’m here to stand up for the Florida families, and families across America, who deserve to breathe clean air and to be protected under the Clean Air Act, particularly in this case from ozone pollution.
Ozone is dangerous. As the byproduct of vehicle exhaust, power plants, and other pollutants combined with heat and sunlight, it wreaks havoc on our respiratory systems. As the EPA points out on its website, ground-level ozone pollution is harmful to the health of all Americans, especially for children, older Americans, and people with preexisting lung conditions.
Ozone aggressively attacks lung tissue by chemically reacting with it.
It can make it harder to breathe, leading to coughing, inflamed airways, and a sore throat. It can weaken the lungs, making breathing conditions like asthma even worse. And it’s even more dangerous for farmworkers, and any worker who spends long stretches of time outdoors. For these workers, weaker protections can lead to respiratory challenges – and even death.
Now is not the time to release more pollution into the air we breathe.
The overwhelming number of scientific reports, such as those from the American Lung Association and the Clean Air Task Force, support a stronger standard for ozone. And our Select Committee staff report includes a number of recommendations to reduce fugitive methane emissions from oil and natural gas production. Eliminating methane pollution and other volatile organic compounds will reduce the chance of ozone-forming in areas near and downwind of oil production.
Now, we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic – one where the air we breathe and healthy respiratory systems are vital. Yet this is another in President Trump and his administration’s consistent attacks on the air we breathe.
Since he took office, President Trump has continuously rolled back important clean air protections – the kinds of safeguards that keep our lungs healthy and ensure our access to clean air.
Instead of building on those protections, especially in the midst of a pandemic, President Trump has taken the opposite route.
He has made it easier for the oil and gas industry to release methane into our atmosphere.
He has made it easier for power plants to release toxic mercury pollution.
And he has rolled back safeguards meant to reduce carbon pollution from cars and trucks.
Time after time, this president has put our public health at risk. And today’s proposal is no different.
By refusing to strengthen our nation’s ozone standard, the president is turning his back on American families and siding with polluters once again. The science on this is clear. Instead, President Trump should be trying to strengthen clean air protections, especially as we continue to battle a pandemic that ravages the lungs. It is a heart-wrenching fact that more than 180,000 Americans have died of COVID over the past few months. And that’s just a fraction of the more than 6 million Americans who have contracted the coronavirus, many of whom have been hospitalized or seriously ill for days or weeks at a time.
We know that air pollution is making the coronavirus crisis worse. Which is why the EPA must do a lot more to protect our air quality. Keeping the current ozone standard will fail to protect families in Florida and across the nation. The current standard has already made the air dangerous to breathe in communities across the country, including in my own home district. According to the American Lung Association, the Tampa Bay gets an ‘F’ rating when it comes to ozone particles in the air we breathe. That’s why I strongly oppose the EPA’s proposal to keep the status quo, when the science clearly shows that we need stronger protections.
I call on the EPA to follow the science, and to actually set stronger standards for ozone pollution.
As Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, I’ve had a front row seat to this administration’s complete disregard for science. I’ve been consistently appalled by this president’s disdain towards experts, and towards the folks who are showing us the way forward. Science must be at the heart of our policymaking. We need science more than ever, as we fight off a pandemic and do what we must to protect public health. I urge you today: Unite behind the science. Protect the air we breathe. And strengthen these standards.”
- Under President Trump, the EPA has proposed to retain the existing ozone NAAQS. The existing primary and secondary standards, established in 2015, are 0.070 parts per million (ppm), as the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration, averaged across three consecutive years. The Clean Air Act directs EPA to set primary standards to provide public health protection including for at-risk groups with an adequate margin of safety and the secondary standards to provide protection against adverse effects to the public welfare, including the environment and property. (Source: EPA)
- In June, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Democrats released a majority staff report that called on Congress to cut pollution and ensure clean air for all Americans.