Environment
4:52 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Obama Delays Ozone Standards

Texas cities and counties will have more time to cut down on air pollution before new ozone standards come into effect in two years. President Obama pulled the plug on proposed ozone standards that were supposed to be announced today after multiple delays.

The decision could be considered a win for businesses that have argued that the federal government was going to revisit ozone standards in 2013 anyway. This is part of the statement the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality put out in response to the delay.

“The State of Texas has argued for years that the previous standards were protective of the environment and human health and there was no compelling scientific reason to revise that standard. We're glad the Obama administration finally agrees with this position and has put a halt to this job-killing proposal.”

Smog standards are set to be reviewed every five years. Bill Gill is the air quality manager for the Capital Area Council of Governments, the organization that monitors air quality for the Central Texas region.

“My speculation is that they’re (Obama Administration) thinking  is that if the Science Advisory Committee comes out with a new format of the standards that would really complicate things – with only two years until a new standard comes out -- there’s not enough for time for the states or the locals to do anything," Gill told KUT News.

The Austin-area could have been considered in violation of ozone standards if the new rules were implemented. The EPA Administrator said the new standard would fall between 60 and 70 parts per billion.

Austin sits at 74 parts per billion. Gill says Austin has pledged to the state and EPA to continue pollution cutting programs until 2013 in anticipation of new ozone standards.

The decision drew criticism from environmentalists who wanted to see new standards issued.

"The Sierra Club condemns the Obama administration's decision to delay critical, long-overdue protections from smog, an acidic air pollutant that when inhaled is like getting a sunburn on your lungs,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a press statement.By putting the interest of coal and oil polluters first, the White House seems to be saying that 'clean air will have to wait."

Austin has recently experienced a few days of orange air quality alerts. That’s when the ozone levels in the air are considered unhealthy for certain people, like those with asthma, breathing problems or young or old people. 

You can check the air quality forecast everyday here.

Gill said if Austin has anymore of these orange air alerts, it could push the city into non-attainment, even at the current ozone standards of 75 parts per billion.