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

(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.

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 .

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.” 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 . 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.”

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.
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.