This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.
This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 22, 2014.
We know that ozone pollution is a public health threat in Houston. Now a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that threat is greater than previously thought. As a result, the ozone standard is likely to be lowered by the end of the year. Houston has never met an ozone standard, but it is time for us to get serious about protecting our health.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been considering lowering the standard since 2008, when President George W. Bush's EPA revised it to 75 parts per billion. That revision defied an EPA recommendation for a standard as low as 70 parts per billion. Now the agency recommends that 60 parts per billion may be needed to protect public health.
Ozone, unlike other air pollutants, isn't restricted to certain parts of Houston. It's found everywhere, and it causes asthma attacks, heart disease and even early death. In the Houston region, 6 million people are at risk.
It is the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to bring ozone down to healthy levels. In reacting to the EPA's new findings, the TCEQ focuses not on the need to protect public health, but on the regulatory burden of reducing air pollution. The TCEQ is already attacking the science behind the new study. TCEQ Chief Toxicologist Michael Honeycutt has questioned even the concept of an eight-hour ozone standard, suggesting in a Houston Chronicle story that it might be "more appropriate" to return to a one-hour standard, as the EPA had in the 1970s. Read More