Thursday, November 10, 2005

Smog Problems Nearly Double in 2005

Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005(202) 558-3527

For Immediate Release Contact: Frank O’Donnell (202-558-3527)

Clean Air Watch:
Smog Problems Nearly Double in 2005

(Washington, DC, November 10, 2005) --Smog problems around the nation have nearly doubled in 2005 compared to 2004, according to the non-profit Clean Air Watch.

Clean Air Watch reported today that unofficial records show the federal health standard for ozone, or smog, has been breached 3,423 times in 40 states and the District of Columbia this year, through October. That compares to about 1,930 times in 35 states and D.C. in 2004.

The non-profit watchdog group noted that the air has been unhealthful for smog in at least one state on 159 different days this year.

“This is a breath-taking reminder that smog remains a giant and widespread public health problem,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

“We cannot cut new breaks for big polluters if we expect to meet our public health standards.”

The analysis was released as a U.S. Senate committee held a hearing on federal efforts to meet clean air standards for smog and fine-particle pollution.

O’Donnell warned that pollution cleanup could be impeded by controversial energy legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives and by a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to stop enforcing the Clean Air Act against most coal-burning electric power plants.

The energy bill was rammed through the House by Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Tom DeLay (R-TX) to help big oil companies and gas station owners. It could delay smog standards and threaten plans to clean up diesel fuel and big diesel engines. The Senate Energy Committee has said it may consider a counterpart measure.

Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed new loopholes to permit coal-burning power plants to avoid using pollution controls. And the oil industry and other special-interests are clamoring to postpone deadlines for meeting smog standards.

“The craven quest to cut breaks for polluters will mean one thing – more people will breathe dirty air for a longer time,” O’Donnell warned. “And that will mean more disease, more suffering, and more people dying before their time.”

O’Donnell added that “we need to accelerate the cleanup of existing diesel engines, power plants and other big sources of pollution.”

O’Donnell noted some positive news in the numbers: the long-term trend does appear to show improvement. He noted, for example, that smog problems were less frequent in 2005 than in 2003 (almost 4,500 monitored problems) or in 2000 (more than 4,600 monitored problems).

“The long-term trend seems positive because existing pollution-control programs appear to be working,” he noted. He cited in particular programs – adopted in the 1990s but only phased in during the past two years – including those to reduce summer-time smog-forming emissions from electric power plants, lower-polluting cars, and cleaner gasoline.

O’Donnell noted that 2004 was an unusually cool and rainy year in much of the nation. Much of the normal pollution was simply washed out of the skies. 2005 was more representative.

The 2005 information comes from a review by Clean Air Watch volunteers of information from state-run air pollution monitors. The 2004 information is based on official government statistics.

The full list of states and other factoids are available at the Clean Air Watch blog at The unofficial monitor-by-monitor readings are available from Clean Air Watch and could be useful material in local news stories.