Opposotion in the Wind Jim McGee

Opposition in the Wind against Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards
Reducing car and truck idling and roadway incident duration are two strategies that can lower tailpipe and fuel system emissions. Jim McGee

In a December 17, 2014 Federal Register notice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it is proposing to reduce the level of ozone it allows under National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to 70 or 65 parts per billion from the current 75 parts per billion. The proposal isn’t adopted yet but will increase the number of local and state agencies and jurisdictions required to develop mitigation plans and many are not urban jurisdictions. According to the EPA, the revision in standards, will increase public health protections; and high-risk populations such as children, older adults, and people with asthma or other lung diseases are expected to benefit.
Certainly, not everybody supports the proposed change; and pushback from organizations representing metropolitan planning organizations, state DOTs and manufacturers is strong. According to the National League of Manufacturers, the new standards will make it harder to manufacture goods and build highways and bridges. Fears that permits will be harder to get and manufacturers will not be able to expand without reducing emissions are driving the opposition. The EPA’s December, 2014 proposal could increase by hundreds the number of large and small MPOs, counties and states that are subject to ozone restrictions and the planning, mitigation actions, paperwork and reporting that comes with it.

Opponents say that the new standards could also cause immense burdens on rural areas that have little technical expertise or administrative staff. National Weather Service (NWS) Ozone maps show that some rural areas have O3 levels that are higher than in cities due to factors like agricultural emissions and dust. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, agricultural areas will feel the new standards impact both administratively and economic development-wise as industries find expansion difficult.
Car and truck tailpipe and fuel system emissions impact air quality. Every minute shaved from the duration of an incident helps air quality by reducing the l chemical reaction involving ultraviolet light, electrical charges, solar radiation and pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides methane and carbon monoxide.
A 4-cylinder car burns about .2 gallons per hour and a diesel about .8 gallons while idling. More than a third of the population is considered to be at increased risk for health effects from ambient Ozone exposure. One gallon of gasoline weighs 6.6 pounds but is part of a chain reaction that creates nearly 20 pounds of Ozone or O3.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) forced a new focus on environmental programs that created the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program. The CMAQ program was implemented to support surface transportation projects and other related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief.
CMAQ was reauthorized in 1998, 2005, and most recently in 2012. MAP-21 provided more than $2.2 billion in CMAQ funding for 2013 and 2014.e Environ
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the six pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The six pollutants used to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS):

  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Lead

The planning requirements for nonattainment areas is part of the Air Quality Management (AQM) process. The AQM process correlates air quality to emissions data in order to determine the reductions and control measures needed to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). AQM identifies air quality problems and solutions that could include improved traffic flow and incident management into a regulatory clean air plan, or State Implementation Plan (SIP). The SIPs include control measures that “clean the air” and meet the NAAQS level by the area’s attainment date.
According to the EPA, the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks, millions of cases of respiratory problems such as acute bronchitis and asthma attacks, and 86,000 hospital admissions in a single year.

The EPA said that the CAA also prevented 13 million lost workdays, improving worker productivity which contributes to a stronger economy; and prevented 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.

Short-term O3 exposures cause decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms and pulmonary inflammation that result in costly emergency department visits and hospital admissions and total non-accidental mortality. For long-term O3 exposures, the health effects include a variety of respiratory morbidity effects and respiratory mortality.
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The author lives in Nebraska and can be contacted at jim.mcgee.ne@gmail.com

U.S. EPA, Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020: Final Report

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