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Environment: EPA proposes new life-saving ozone standards

A NASA satellite image shows air pollution along the East Coast and over the Atlantic.

A NASA satellite image shows air pollution along the East Coast and over the Atlantic.

New rule would more than pay for itself in health care savings

Staff Report

FRISCO — As more and more studies show the harmful health effects of smog, or ground-level ozone, the EPA wants to set new standards to help clean up the air.

Last week the agency unveiled its proposal to lower the standard from 75 parts per billion to as low as 60 ppb, pending completion of a review and comment period, including public hearings.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years by following a set of open, transparent steps and considering the advice of a panel of independent experts. EPA last updated these standards in 2008, setting them at 75 ppb. Continue reading

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Climate: Ozone problems ahead?

Ozone damage on the leaf of a cutleaf coneflower manifests in the form of black stipules. Photo courtesy RMNP.

Ozone damage on the leaf of a cutleaf coneflower manifests in the form of black stipules. Photo courtesy RMNP.

New study projects mid-century air quality under various global warming scenarios

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even with ongoing efforts to improve air quality, global warming could drive ozone levels high enough to cause widespread damage to plants by mid-century, according to a new study that focused on the U.S. but also considered global air quality.

“Modelling future air quality is very complex, because so many factors need to be taken into account at both a global and local scale,” said Dr. Val Martin, of the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering. Continue reading

Environment: Federal appeals court focusing on toxic ozone smog in Utah’s Uinta Basin

EPA challenged on decision to designate polluted region as unclassifiable

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Environmental advocates and the EPA are facing off in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today over air quality in Utah’s remote Uinta Basin, where ozone levels often exceed standards set to protect human health.

In a weird twist to the case, the fossil fuel industry is claiming that its own air pollution data is of poor quality and unreliable, and shouldn’t be used by the EPA to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area, despite the fact that the area regularly sees some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the country.

At issue in the oral arguments is the EPA’s refusal to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area despite monitoring showing serious air quality degradation in northeastern Utah. The EPA’s decision to designate the area as unclassifiable is a clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups involved in the case. Continue reading

Study: Cutting carbon pollution pays off in a big way by reducing health care costs

Feds make progress on environmental justice.

Study shows how cutting carbon pollution pays huge dvidends by reducing health care costs.

‘Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality’

Staff report

FRISCO — Adopting a carbon cap-and-trade program would easily pay for itself — and then some — by reducing health care costs associated with treating asthma and other medical conditions resulting from air pollution, MIT researchers said in a detailed study that looked at the comparative cost and benefits of three potential climate policies.

Policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles,  also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution, the scientists said, publishing their findings last month in Nature Climate Change.

Overall, the study found that savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation. Continue reading

Winter ozone formation in Utah linked with atmospheric inversions and persistent snow cover

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Air quality worsening in rural areas affected by fracking

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerously high levels of winter ozone pollution in parts of Utah can be traced directly to chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration. The volatile organic compounds, common byproducts of fossil fuel exploitation, get trapped under atmospheric inversion layers and sunlight reflected by snow sparks the chemical process that forms the corrosive gas.

For example, in 2013, ozone in Ouray, Utah, exceeded the national air quality standards 49 times during the winter season. By contrast, in the densely populated, urban area of Riverside, California, the standards were exceeded about half that amount that same year, but during the summer. Continue reading

Environment: Northeast lakes rebound from acid rain

Air quality regs pay off, as New England lakes and streams bounce back from acid rain.

Air quality regs pay off, as New England lakes and streams bounce back from acid rain.

It’s simple: Cleaning the air improves water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — Acid rain, once the scourge of freshwater ecosystems in the eastern U.S., is waning, and the health of New England lakes and streams is improving, scientists said this week after documenting declines in sulfate concentrations in snow and rain.

The data gathered by scientists working under the auspices of the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, show that sulfate concentration in rain and snow declined by more than 40 percent in the 2000s. Sulfate concentration in lakes declined at a greater rate from 2002 to 2010 than during the 1980s or 1990s. During the 2000s, nitrate concentration in rain and snow declined by more than 50 percent and nitrate concentration declined in lakes. Continue reading

Environment: Soot pollution targeted by new lawsuit

Diesel exhaust is significant regional contributor to soot pollution.

Diesel exhaust is significant regional contributor to soot pollution.

Green group cites lack of EPA enforcement in nine-state legal action

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than 100 years after the dawn of the industrial age, factories and power plants are still spewing toxic soot into the air, even though the technology to halt the pollution is readily available.

Conservation advocates last week said enough is enough, and announced a far-reaching lawsuit that would force the EPA to finally live up to its obligation to enforce Clean Air Act standards.

“The Clean Air Act can only work to protect public health and ecosystems if it is actually enforced,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “EPA and the states have a moral and legal duty to work to together to clean up the toxic soot that’s polluting our skies.” Continue reading

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