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Monday, June 04, 2012

Smog Shocker: May Ozone the Worst in Five Years; Underscores Need for Low-Sulfur Gas

Clean Air Watch
1250 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 558-3527

For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527 or
202-302-2065)
Twitter@cleanairfrank



(Washington, D.C., June 4, 2012) – Last month was the smoggiest May in at least five years, according to a survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch. In fact, the number of dirty-air smog events in May was nearly triple that of 2011.

Clean Air Watch noted that these breath-taking findings underscore the “huge need for new smog-fighting tools.” The “single most effective strategy” would be low-sulfur gasoline that would make every car on the road pollute less, noted Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

A preliminary EPA plan for low-sulfur gas has been stalled by oil industry lobbying and oil company-inspired dirty-air legislation in the House of Representatives.

The survey found that through May 31 of this year, breathers in 31 states had already suffered levels of smog worse than the national ozone standard set by the Bush administration in 2008. These smog levels are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy. Twenty-two states had similar problems during a comparable period last year. http://bit.ly/LbW4ko

But dirty-air events have not only been more widespread but also far more frequent this year, the survey found. Indeed, last month was by far the worst May for smog since the Bush standard was set in 2008. For a table of May smog problems during the past five years, as well as a list of states with Code Red or Code Orange problems this year, please note http://bit.ly/KtXRHz .

During May, the survey found the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached 854 times at state-run monitoring stations. By comparison, during May 2011, there were 323 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedances.” http://1.usa.gov/K7cSt8 For 2012 as a whole there have been 1,002 of these dirty-smog readings, compared to 445 in 2011.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2012.

Clean Air Watch noted its survey understates the true extent of the smog problem. The EPA conceded more than two years ago that the Bush standard was too weak to protect children with asthma and other breathers http://1.usa.gov/lCsWTr . But in the face of oil industry pressure, the White House put off any effort to update the standards until at least 2014.

Oil pressure similarly has stalled a preliminary EPA plan to require oil companies to make cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline. EPA has testified to Congress that such a plan would cost refiners “less than one penny per gallon.” http://bit.ly/K1s0yH

O’Donnell noted that “every car on the road today would immediately pollute less” with low-sulfur gasoline, because catalytic converters would perform better to eliminate smog-forming emissions.

Oil lobbying has also prompted the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to approve legislation that would prevent EPA from moving forward. That legislation would also undermine the entire basis of the Clean Air Act. Health and environmental advocates refer to this as the GASP (Gutting Air Standard Protections) Act. http://bit.ly/JaYgh7
The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on that legislation later this month.

“May’s smog siege should be a chilling reminder that we need to do more, not less, to clean up this widespread vicious pollution.” O’Donnell said.



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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Clean Air Watch Smog Survey: smog problems up by nearly one-third in September

Even as many in Congress continue relentless attacks on air pollution control requirements - - and the Obama administration faces accusations of waffling -- Clean Air Watch disclosed today that “Code Orange” and “Code Red” smog days were up by nearly one-third in September compared to September 2010.

In releasing its latest Smog Watch Survey, Clean Air Watch noted the 2011 eye-brow-raising smog spike came despite a rainy and cool September which washed out most of the problems in the Middle Atlantic and Northeast.

Clean Air Watch noted that there were 1,038 “Code Orange” or “Code Red” days in September, clustered in 22 states. That compares to 785 such days in 24 states and the District of Columbia in September 2010. Clean Air Watch volunteers compiled these statistics from state-run smog monitors. The total refers to the number of monitors with dirty-air readings worse than the smog standard (75 parts per billion of ozone) set by the Bush administration in 2008. The EPA recently said it will enforce this standard after President Obama blocked efforts to toughen it.

Altogether in 2011, there have been more than 5,300 “Code Orange” or “Code Red” smog days through September, compared to about 3,900 the previous year – a 36 percent increase, Clean Air Watch noted.

Some interesting factoids:

• Chicago had a “Code Orange” smog day the very day (September 2) President Obama ordered the EPA to kill its plan to update and toughen national air quality standards for smog.

• California retains the dubious honor of having the worst air in the nation. There were “Code Orange” or “Code Red” readings somewhere in Calfornia 27 days during September – every day except Sept. 12, 25 and 26.

• Close on California’s heels, however, was Texas, which had 25 dirty-air days during September – an interesting factoid given Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to EPA’s Cross-State Pollution Rule AND his bizarre bragging about pollution cleanup in the state.

The widespread air pollution problem is further evidence that more needs to be done to clean up the air – including pollution reductions at power plants as well as tougher new standards for motor vehicles and cleaner, lower-sulfur gasoline.

More details are available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/10/clean-air-watch-smog-watch-survey-smog.html

State-by-state monitoring results are available from Clean Air Watch.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Widespread "Code Orange" and "Code Red" Days Argue for Tougher Vehicle, Gasoline Standards

(Washington, D.C., September 12, 2011) – Even though the White House recently squashed tougher national smog standards for political reasons, widespread “Code Orange” and “Code Red” smog days demonstrate the need for tougher motor vehicle and gasoline controls, according to a survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch.

The nation experienced nearly 1,300 “Code Orange” or “Code Red” days for ozone in August alone – a 40 percent increase over the number in 2010, Clean Air Watch noted. Altogether there have been a total of 4,275 “Code Orange” or “Code Red” days in 39 states and the District of Columbia through August of this year. That compares to 3,123 “Code Orange” or “Code Red” days during the comparable period last year.

These dirty-air warnings are based on the national smog air quality standards set by the Bush administration in 2008.

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said the survey “demonstrates the absolute need for better national controls on smog-forming pollution. And the easiest way to do this is for EPA to move forward with tougher tailpipe pollution standards for passenger vehicles and cleaner, lower-sulfur gasoline.”

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the only comprehensive snapshot of smog in the nation released periodically through the summer smog season. O’Donnell noted “This is first Smog Watch survey since the White House – in a foolish and cowardly cave-in to big polluters and some Republicans in Congress – ordered the EPA to stop a plan to update national ozone standards.”

But O’Donnell noted that “even under the scientifically deficient smog standards set by the Bush administration in 2008, we need to do more to clean up the air. Setting better motor vehicle and fuel standards would be a good first step in the right direction.”

The survey found that in August 2011 alone, 29 states experienced levels of smog worse than the national ozone standards set by the Bush Administration in 2008. These smog events are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

The survey “understates the full extent of the smog problem,” O’Donnell noted. EPA’s science advisers and own experts have called for tougher national ozone air quality standards based on modern science. EPA was attempting to update the national standards
http://1.usa.gov/lCsWTr until the update was shut down for political reasons by the White House.

More details on the Clean Air Watch survey are available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/09/smog-watch-survey-finds-widespread-smog.html

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Smog Watch 2011: Smog Roars Back with a Vengeance in June

(Washington, D.C., July 5, 2011) – Smog roared back with a vengeance in June, according to a survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch.

The nation experienced more than double the dirty-air days last month than during June 2010, Clean Air Watch noted. The pollution and heat-driven smog siege came after generally lower smog levels during the first several months of the year.

Clean Air Watch said the survey demonstrated the “dire need” for the U.S. EPA to move ahead with tougher pollution controls for coal-fired electric power plants as well as other pollution controls including cleaner motor vehicles and less-polluting gasoline.

The survey found that in June, 37 states plus the District of Columbia experienced levels of smog worse than the national ozone standards set by the Bush Administration in 2008. These smog events are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the only comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2011. It found that the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached 1,237 times during June at monitoring stations. During the same period last year, there were 567 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedences.”’

Altogether there have been 1,687 dirty-air days during 2011 compared to 1,146 during a comparable period last year. More details on the survey are available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/07/clean-air-watch-smogwatch-survey.html

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted that the survey “clearly understates the full extent of the smog problem” The measurement used in the survey (ozone levels worse than 75 parts per billion, the same measurement used by the EPA in its “Code Orange” and “Code Red” designations – is weaker than the levels recommended by EPA’s scientific advisers and the proposal made in 2010 by the Obama administration. http://1.usa.gov/lCsWTr

“Many millions of Americans, including children and people with asthma, remain at risk under the weak current standards,” O’Donnell said. He noted that EPA – under pressure from polluters – has several times delayed a final decision on new smog standards, but has promised one by the end of this month.

EPA is expected tomorrow to take a big step towards reducing smog and soot levels when it announces its final new “transport” rule aimed at reducing electric power plant smog and soot emissions that blow across state lines.

“This will be a giant step towards cleaner air, but it obviously will not be enough,” O’Donnell said.

He called on EPA to move ahead with preliminary plans to require cleaner new passenger vehicles and lower-sulfur gasoline.



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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Smog Watch 2011: Fewer States With Dirty Air Than Last Year, But...

(Washington, D.C., June 8, 2011) – Fewer states have experienced “officially” dangerous smog levels so far in 2011 than during the same period last year, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has still not updated national health standards to reflect modern science.

A survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch found that, through May 31, 22 states plus the District of Columbia experienced levels of smog worse than the national ozone standards set by the Bush Administration in 2008. These smog events are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

Thirty-eight states had similar dangerous smog levels during a comparable period last year.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2011. It found that the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached 445 times through May 31 at monitoring stations. During the same period last year, there were more than 575 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedences.”

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted that the survey understates the full extent of the smog problem. The measurement used in the survey (ozone levels worse than 75 parts per billion, the same measurement used by the EPA in its “Code Orange” and “Code Red” designations – is weaker than the levels recommended by EPA’s scientific advisers and the proposal made in 2010 by the Obama administration. http://1.usa.gov/lCsWTr

“The EPA itself has admitted that children, people with asthma and many others remain at risk under the woefully weak current standards,” O’Donnell noted. He added that the oil industry and other big polluters are fighting tooth and nail against tougher final EPA standards.

EPA has several times delayed a final decision, but has promised one by next month.

“The Obama administration must choose the health of children over the wishes of the oil industry,” O’Donnell said. “And it’s time to do it now.”

The list of states and more on the survey is available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2011/06/clean-air-watch-smogwatch-survey.html

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clean Air Watch hails historic EPA plan to close lethal loophole for coal-fired power plants

(Washington, DC, March 16, 2011) – Here is the statement of Frank O’Donnell, president of the non-profit Clean Air Watch, in reaction to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal today to set mercury and other toxic pollution standards for coal-burning power plants:

This is historic -- it would end the lethal loophole that permits coal-burning power plants to spew poisonous pollution into the air.

Indeed, this is the single biggest step for public health protection that the EPA will take this year. Thousands of Americans will live longer and many millions will breathe easier as a result. Not only that, but fish will be safer to eat as toxic mercury is reduced from water bodies.

EPA would bring the dirtiest and most toxic coal power plants up to the standards of today’s cleanest plants. This would protect public health, clean up the environment – and create jobs.

Thanks to its lobbying prowess, the coal-burning power industry has escaped toxic pollution controls for more than two decades. Coal burning is the biggest source of mercury and other toxic emissions.

It is high time we closed this lethal loophole that permits coal-burning power plants to escape toxic pollution controls.

We have no doubt this is only round one of this battle, and that coal interests will continue to fight for loopholes and delays. We anticipate a smokestack smokescreen: scare tactics, including phony claims about possible blackouts.

EPA needs to stand its ground and make sure that these dirty power plants clean up ASAP.
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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smog Shocker: smog problems off almost 50% in 2009

(Washington, D.C., September 3, 2009) – If you think there’s less smog this year, you are probably right.



Thanks in large part to cooler temperatures and more rain, the number of dirty-air days for smog nationwide has dropped by almost half in 2009 compared to last year, according to a survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch.



The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2009. It found that the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached more than 2,600 times through August 31 at monitoring stations in 37 states and the District of Columbia.



During the same period last year, there were more than 5,000 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedences.”



There were several key factors in the smog drop, according to Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch: cooler, wetter weather, less use of coal-burning electric power plants to run air conditioners, the general decline in the economy, and the continuing turnover of cars and trucks to new models that meet tougher clean-air requirements. (Further information on these issues is available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/09/smog-watch-2009-some-surprising-news.html )



“Despite the improvement, we can’t afford to drop our efforts to reduce smog-forming pollution,” O’Donnell said. “We can’t count on rain to wash the pollution away. Scientists warn that global warming could make it harder to achieve clean-air standards in the future. And, obviously, a sick economy is not the right cure for dirty air.”



Clean Air Watch is urging the EPA to take further steps to reduce ozone-forming pollution, including:



Setting new requirements to reduce smog-forming pollution from coal-fired power plants;


Following through with tougher pollution standards for ocean-going ships, whose emissions can reach far into inland areas;


Rejecting efforts by one diesel engine maker to delay new truck pollution standards; and


Rejecting efforts to pemit higher levels of smog-forming corn-based ethanol in gasoline.


O’Donnell noted that the statistics likely underestimate the full extent of the smog problem. The standard – 75 parts per billion, set by the EPA in 2008 – is weaker than the levels recommended by EPA’s scientific advisers.



Clean Air Watch is encouraging the Obama administration to set a tougher national health standard in accord with the latest health research.



Ozone, commonly described as smog, can trigger asthma attacks, send people to hospital emergency rooms and shorten lives.



Even though there were fewer dirty-air days overall, the survey of public web sites found monitored readings of harmful smog levels in states from coast to coast – from Washington and California to New Hampshire, Maine and Florida.



As in past years, the most severe problems generally have been in California.



The smog problems are unrelated to the hazardous smoke pollution created by the California wildfires.



The list of states and more on the survey is available at http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/09/smog-watch-2009-some-surprising-news.html .