NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 19, 2007

Despite the impression given by environmental lobbyists and their supporters, air quality in the United States is the best it has been since before the industrial revolution and continues to improve, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

For instance:

  • Nationwide between 1980 and 2005, nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased 37 percent and volatile organic compounds emissions fell 47 percent.
  • As a result, peak 8-hour ozone levels declined 20 percent, and days per year exceeding the eight-hour standard fell 79 percent.
  • Only 19 percent of the nation's metropolitan areas violate the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) current ozone standard, down from 40 percent a few years ago.
  • Only 4 percent of non-metropolitan counties violate the current standard; ongoing programs should reduce ozone even further.

Despite this progress, the EPA has proposed a new federal standard for ozone that would put 67 percent to 87 percent of metropolitan areas and 39 percent to 72 percent of non-metropolitan counties in violation, says Burnett.   Because the proposed standard would be lower than the natural levels of ozone in some areas, many cities and counties could risk a budget shortfall or even bankruptcy trying to meet the new standard -- and still fail.

The newly proposed EPA standard poses a significant risk of public harm with little reason to expect much in the way of benefits.  Accordingly, the EPA should withdraw its proposal to tighten the ozone standard, and acknowledge that the current standard already protects Americans' health with room to spare, says Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "NO: Proposal ignores vast improvements in U.S. air quality," Charlotte Observer, November 19, 2007.


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