From our contributor Sarah McDonald:
Usually when a problem suddenly becomes much more severe, you expect whatever is being done to solve the issue to also ramp up a notch. For example, if a tropical storm in the gulf suddenly turned into a category 3 hurricane, hurricane preparedness efforts would increase dramatically over night. Or if your Aunt Mildred had been sick for some time and her doctor announced that she was in fact seriously ill, you’d hope that her physician would boost treatment. And if the EPA announced that Houston had a “severe”, not a “moderate” smog problem, you’d think that region would be required to put extra effort into emissions reductions.
Well, you’d be wrong.
Because the EPA did in fact reclassify Houston’s smog problem as “severe”, and rather than ordering the 8-county regional area to intensify their clean up plans, the agency actually extended the deadline to meet federal health standards for ozone. Governor Rick Perry requested the change from “moderate” to “severe” – skipping over a “serious” ranking entirely. The region was supposed to have met the EPA’s standards by 2010, but now has until 2019 to come into compliance. What’s worse, this extension is still for the EPA’s 1997 ozone standard, which is no longer considered sufficient to protect public health. The EPA reduced allowable amounts of ozone from 84 parts per billion to 75 ppb earlier this year (which is still significantly higher than the 60 – 70 ppb range recommended by the EPA’s science advisory committee as the safest measure to protect human health — but what do those scientists know anyway?) Houston may not be required to meet the current standard until as late as 2030.
Now, not that I wouldn’t trust Governor Perry and the EPA with my life… (more…)