NPCA, along with partners, sent the following position to members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety ahead of a hearing scheduled for May 23, 2017.
Members of the committee are urged to oppose S. 452 – Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length (ORDEAL) Act of 2017 and S. 263 – Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. Both bills seek to delay action on the implementation of current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone pollution by at least eight years and extend the review cycle for all NAAQS from five to ten years. If enacted, either bill will irrevocably harm human health, natural ecosystems and the economy.
For 47 years, Congress has given Americans the right to clean air based on science alone; these bills undermine that right by allowing political delay to deny Americans the timely right to safe air based on the latest medical understandings. NAAQS are intended to defend the public from harmful air pollution that comes from vehicles, energy producers and industrial sources by setting health and welfare based pollution standards with which all states must comply. That’s nowhere more important than in our national parks, forests, and other public lands – places set aside to protect America’s natural and cultural resources and provide healthful outdoor recreation for millions of people. Iconic landscapes across the country from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California to Acadia National Park in Maine, still experience times when levels of ozone are unhealthy for parks and people. High levels of ozone damage wildlife and vegetation and can harm the health of otherwise healthy individuals while working or exercising outdoors.
Ozone pollution is linked to serious breathing problems and premature death, stifles tree and crop growth, causes leaves of common tree species to blacken and wither, and is also a potent greenhouse gas. Formed by emissions from power plants, factories, solvent use, and motor vehicles, ozone is the principal component of smog. It affects tens of millions of people in the United States, posing a particular threat to asthmatics, children and the elderly, and is especially harmful to people spending time outdoors, including in our nation’s parks. Beyond the healthcare costs related to respiratory problems, lost worker days and reduced worker productivity, local economies are affected by ozone pollution as visitors to parks and wilderness areas may reduce the length of their stay or alter their travel plans where air quality is compromised.
NAAQS should be set and revisited every five years to ensure that the most up to date science is reflected in public health and ecosystem protections against air pollution. Many NAAQS reviews already take 8-10 or more years under a 5-year statutory deadline. By extending the statutory deadline from five to ten years, S. 452 and S. 263 would set our nation backward, further delaying implementation and review of critical clean air safeguards.
We urge you to oppose both bills and instead be a strong voice to protect our parks and communities, including the elderly, the young and everyone in between, so all can thrive in good health and have beneficial experiences in America’s most treasured landscapes.
Alaska Wilderness League
Appalachian Mountain Club
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Aroostook Band of Micmacs
Center for Biological Diversity
Friends of Acadia
League of Conservation Voters
Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network
National Parks Conservation Association
Nebraska Wildlife Federation
New Energy Economy
Natural Resources Defense Council
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Maine Chapter
Southern Environmental Law Center
The Wilderness Society
Valley Forge Park Alliance
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Former Deputy Vice President, Government Affairs