Ring the Curtain Down on EPA Ozone Rules

Published July 30, 2015

“On November 25, 2014, the EPA proposed to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, based on extensive scientific evidence about ozone’s effects. The proposed updates will improve public health protection, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. The updates also will improve protection for trees, plants and ecosystems.”

The proposed new standards were placed in the Federal Register December 14, 2014 and asked for public comments on lowering the current standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) of ground-level ozone over an eight-hour period to 65 to 70 ppb.  Considerations may also be made lowering the standard to 60 ppb.  A final ruling may be made October 15, 2015.
In support of the new standard is a Guest Column “Reduce ozone levels for kids’ sake” by Dr. LeRoy M. Graham Jr., pediatric pulmonologist, in the July 1, 2015The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Dr. Graham wrote, “Ozone, also known as smog, causes millions of asthma attacks every year in the United States. According to this year’s recently released American Lung Association “State of the Air 2015″ report, Atlantans are among the nearly half of all Americans – more than 138 million – who live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe.”  He further wrote, “Based on the review of thousands of studies, experts agree ozone harms health at levels well below what is currently considered ‘safe.’  In my opinion, the EPA needs to heed the scientific consensus and set stronger ozone standards based on the scientific evidence available.” 
Dr. Graham is a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Chapter of the American Lung Association.
On March 18, 2009, EPA employee Allyn Brooks-LaSure sent a three-page e-mail “Strategic Communications Conversation” to Richard Windsor, aka EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.  Ms. Brooks-LaSure points out polar bears and ice caps were not attracting public attention on attempts to curtail fossil fuel use to stop global warming.  She stated, “However, if we shift from making this about polar caps and about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue to many Americans.”  Thus use of children struggling with asthma attacks would be a major issue supporting EPA regulations.
President Obama has used asthma on several occasions to support his efforts to stop use of fossil fuels to stop global warming.  The May 31, 2014 The Guardian carried an article “Obama heralds health benefits of climate plan to cut power plant emissions”  which described a presentation President Obama made, with white-robed individuals in the background, in an asthma ward at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC.  The President said, “just in the first year the plan would reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 and heart attacks by 2100″.  A 7-page report from The White House “The Health Impacts of Climate Change On Americans” list their claims of health problems from global warming.  No mention most health problems occur in the winter.  On April 7, 2015, President Obama appeared on ABC television news and mentioned 12 years earlier his 4 year old daughter had to be rushed to an emergency room due to asthma attack.  As a heavy smoker at that time, President Obama must have been unaware that indoor smoking is a big contributor to causing asthma attacks.
In its war against fossil fuels, the EPA has a variety of tools of which one powerful help is the ability to give grants to a variety of organizations such as governments, businesses, Indian tribes, education institutions, and non-profit organizations called non-government organizations (NGOs).  The database show grants for the past ten years, including earlier grants that started before that time and still continuing, are 33,069 for a total cost of $56.087 billion.  In spite of Americans being numbed by annual federal deficits exceeding one half trillion dollars, $56 billion is a lot of money.  Using a conservative estimate of $100,000 grant money equaling one man-year of effort, this sum represents 560,000 man-years employment.  Many of these workers do the bidding of EPA on supporting its policies.  Enthusiastic support may be necessary for grant renewals.  A strange category of awards is 6179 awards of $1.741 billion to Indian Tribes.
NGO grants the past ten years are 4436 grants for $2.227 billion.  The American Lung Association is very supportive of the EPA on air pollution with 79 grants over ten years totaling $18,509,199.  Donations to NGOs are tax-deductible, so their activities are considered fully taxpayer supported.
The Center for Regulatory Solutions — a project of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council — analyzed comments for the ozone rule and found the Natural Resources Defense Council generated 17,000 comments; 74,000 comments came from the Sierra Club; and there were 28,000 comments from Organizing for Action.  Center for Regulatory Solutions also noted the American Lung Association generated 4,700 comments in support of tighter ozone standards.  The Center for Regulatory Solutions found “the four groups generated more than 124,000 mass comments in support of the EPA”. Comments from these activist groups made up nearly 30 percent of the total submitted on EPA’s ozone rule.
As previously mentioned, EPA gave 79 grants for $18,509,199 to the American Lung Association the past ten years.  They also gave 2 grants for $2,332,780 to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Organizing for Action is an Obama Administration political action group operating out of the White House that sends e-mails requesting action to millions who have signed up for the program.
EPA’s published Air Quality Trends shows continuous reductions in air pollution from 1980 to 2013.  This in spite of Gross Domestic Product growth of 145 %, miles traveled growth of 95 %, population growth of 39 %, and energy consumption of 25 %.  (Note the increase in energy consumption is far smaller than population growth.  This indicates far more efficient use of energy in spite of demands for more energy to satisfy new technology requirements like the Internet,the cloud storage, cell phones, and smart phones.)  Aggregate emissions of 6 common pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide) dropped 62 % from 1980 to 2013.  This information was last updated October 8, 2014.
Measurements of 8-hour ozone at select locations showed a 33 % decrease from 1980 vs. 2013, 23 % decrease from 1990 to 2013, and 18 % decrease from 2000 to 2013.  This shows a continuous decrease in ozone in spite of lack of full implementation of the latest standard of 75 ppb enacted in 2008.
Air qualities today are unbelievably clean in comparison prior to 1950.  Coal was burned without environmental controls for electric power generation, train propulsion, and business and home heating.  Laundry hung outside to dry turned grey, snow on the ground the day after a snow fall was black, and soot was lodged on surfaces of objects (cars) left outside.  Most paints contained lead.  Tetraethyl lead was used in all gasoline.  Catalytic converters didn’t exist on cars.  The list of pollutants goes on and on.
No one really knows what causes asthma.  We do know asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways.  Causes of asthma symptoms vary for different people.  Still, one thing is consistent with asthma: when airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus.  Allergies with asthma are common problem.  Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach particles.  In one study, children who had high levels of cockroach droppings in their homes were four times more likely to have childhood asthma than children whose homes had low levels.  Asthma exacerbation after dust exposure is usually due to dust mite allergy.”
Questions about relationships between air pollution (ozone) and asthma is posted in the May 7, 2004 article in the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s website by University of Georgia Emeritus Prof. R. Harold Brown “Commentary:  Asthma and Pollution:  a Puzzling Picture”.  Prof. Brown pointed our urban areas in Georgia had less hospitalizations for respiratory illness than rural areas.  In addition, Prof. Brown wrote, “asthma rates increased in the 1980s and 1990s, at a time when Georgia’s air was becoming cleaner. Across the nation, asthma cases increased from about 35 per 1,000 population in 1982 to 55 in 1996.”  Finally Prof. Brown pointed out the timing of asthma hospitalizations did not match air pollution.  Ninety percent of the days air pollution exceeded the 85 ppb eight-hour ozone standard occurred in June-July-August; while 83 percent of hospitalizations occurred in other months.
A July 11, 2011 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Prof. R. Harold Brown “Politics of asthma have outrun the science of the condition” destroys EPA arguments power plant emissions cause asthma.  EPA claims ozone causes asthma; but Prof. Brown cites studies show a negative correlation of asthma attacks with peak eight-hour ozone concentrations.  Air pollution would be thought to be worse in urban areas; but asthma rates are as high in rural areas as urban areas.  A 2004 global report on asthma cited asthma incidences among adults as 10.9 percent in the U. S., 2.1 percent in China, and 2.2 percent in Russia; all countries with far more polluted air than the U. S.  A 2001-2004 CDC study reported 14.6 percent of U. S. born women, 4 percent of Mexican born women, and 6.8 percent for immigrants born elsewhere claimed they had asthma.  Additional studies, most in Europe, show children born on farms with lots of livestock contact are less likely to have asthma.
A more recent paper by Prof. Brown is the June 19, 2015 post on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s website “The Great EPA Ozone-asthma Caper”.  Prof. Brown wrote, “From 1979 to 1997, the maximum allowable level for ozone was set at 120 parts per billion (ppb), averaged over one hour. During this period, maximum one-hour ozone concentrations for the nation decreased 20 percent. The rate (per 10,000) of doctor visits for asthma increased 25 percent.  Then, in 1997, the standard was tightened to 80 ppb averaged over eight hours.  In 2008, this limit was set at 75 ppb.  Previous reductions of ozone levels nationally (25 percent since 1990) have not relieved asthma sufferers of ER visits, which are up 18 percent since 1992-1995. If ozone was reduced and serious asthma attacks increased, what will further ozone reductions do?”
An additional observation by Prof. Brown is, “The projected benefits of the proposed new, stricter standard appear small and contrary. The EPA estimates it will reduce emergency room visits for asthma by 1,400-4,300 per year by 2025. Considering that an average of 1.95 million ER visits for asthma were made from 2008-2010, a reduction of something less than 4,300 is miniscule, less than 0.2 percent.”  Finally he wrote, “Clearly, the EPA doesn’t know how to cure asthma; certainly, it doesn’t know how to treat it. It is well aware, however, of its ability to push through regulations to reduce emissions to ever lower levels, regardless of cost or impact.”
A study “Seasonal variation in asthma-related hospital and intensive care unit admissions”,
J Asthma. 2005 May; 42(4):265-71, examined asthma admissions to 285 hospitals over 2001-2002.  The study showed admissions in winter months were almost twice as prevalent as summer months (10.3 percent in winter months versus 5.9 percent in summer months).
Air pollution not correlated with asthma hospitalizations” is reported by a JunkScience.com study.  Soot and smog were not correlated with emergency admissions for asthma at a large Los Angeles hospital over the two-year period 2010-11.  Los Angeles is one of the most polluted areas in the United States.
To add more confusion to causes of asthma is a new study reported June 6, 2014 in Health Daily News “Too-Clean Homes May Encourage Child Allergies, Asthma:  Study” reported children from dirty homes were less likely to have wheezing coughing by age 3.  The study is still in infancy.
The June 16, 2015 written statement by Dr. Louis Anthony Cox, Jr. on “EPA’s Proposed Ozone Rule:  Potential Impacts On Manufacturing” shows no expected health benefits from ozone reductions.
An article by Brian Palmer titled “How Dangerous Is Asthma?” claimed people are more likely to die from drowning than asthma in the U. S.  Deaths due to asthma have fallen from 2 per 100,000 in 1998 to 1 per 100,000 in 2010.  
The National Association of Manufactures opposed the EPA proposed ozone regulations and produced a video “Our National Parks Could Violate Clean Air Laws?” that “highlights the absurdity of proposed ozone rules and the adverse impact they stand to have on manufacturers and communities across the country.”
A July 2014 study by NERA Consulting for the National Association of Manufactures titled “Assessing Economic Impacts of a Stricter National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone” examined economic effects of lower ozone standards.  Employing their energyeconomic model for a 60 ppb ozone standard, they estimated “potential emissions control costs would reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $270 billion per year on average over the period from2017 through 2040 and by more than $3 trillion over that period in present value terms.  The potential labor market impacts represent an average annual loss of 2.9 million job-equivalents.”  In addition, “a tighter ozone standard may also result in barriers to new energy production activity in areas that become in nonattainment.  We therefore also consider a sensitivity case that includes constraints on new natural gas production in the U.S., leading to even greater estimated impacts in terms of energy costs for consumers and losses in economic output. In this sensitivity case, we estimate a GDP reduction of $360 billion on average and more than $4 trillion over the period from 2017 through 2040 in present value terms, and a projected average annual loss of 4.3 million job-equivalents.”
Additional studies by the Center for Regulatory Solutions are contained in the report “EPA Ozone Rules: Still the Costliest Reg…Ever”.  • Lost Output and Jobs. “Employing our integrated energy-economic macroeconomic model (NewERA), we estimate that the potential emissions control costs could reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by about $140 billion per year on average over the period from 2017 through 2040 and by about $1.7 trillion over that period in present value terms. The potential labor market impacts represent an average annual loss employment income equivalent to 1.4 million jobs (i.e., job-equivalents).”  • Reduced Household Consumption. “Average annual household consumption over those same years could be reduced by an average of about $830 per household per year.”
The ozone rule will have similar results to EPA’s Clean Power Plan issued June 2, 2014 which brought the following response from the United Mine Workers of America:
[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement June 2, 2014:
“The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Our initial analysis indicates that there will be a loss of 75,000 direct coal generation jobs in the United States by 2020. Those are jobs primarily in coal mines, power plants, and railroads. By 2035, those job losses will more than double to 152,000. That amounts to about a 50 percent cut in these well-paying, highly skilled jobs. When a U.S. government economic multiplier used to calculate the impact of job losses is applied to the entire economy, we estimate that the total impact will be about 485,000 permanent jobs lost.
Also in response to the Clean Power Plan the National Black Chamber of Commerce wrote a report “Potential of Proposed EPA Regulations on Low Income Groups and Minorities”.  “The EPA rules would: 1) Significantly reduce U.S. GDP every year over the next two decades –over $2.3 trillion; 2) Destroy millions of jobs; 3) More than double the cost of power and natural gas to over $1 trillion; 4) Require the average family to pay over $1,225 more for power and gas in 2030 than in 2012.  The EPA regulations will increase Hispanic poverty by more than 26% and Black poverty by more than 23%.”
The Energy Security and Independence Act (ESIA) of 2007 charges EPA with enforcing programs increasing use of renewable fuels (corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, etc.) up to 36 billion gallons by 2022.  This is called the renewable fuels standard (RFS).  Corn-based ethanol is limited to a maximum of 15 billion gallons.  At the time the act was written there was no means of making cellulosic ethanol on large scales like millions of gallons per year.  This is still presenting a problem in 2015.
Weather alerts given in cities about impending bad air is due to ozone increases caused by automobiles.  One source of atmospheric ozone is due to ethanol being mixed with gasoline as a renewable fuel.  A December 14, 2009, report by Stanford University researchers “Ethanol results in higher ozone concentrations than gasoline” shows vehicles running on ethanol generate higher concentrations of ozone than those using gasoline, especially in the winter.  This could create new health concerns in areas where ozone hasn’t been a significant problem before.  Areport by the National Academy of Sciences also confirmed ozone producing problems using ethanol as a fuel.  Further evidence of ethanol causing ozone is in an April 28, 2014 Nature Geoscience article “Reduction in local ozone levels in urban Sao Paulo due to a shift from ethanol to gasoline use”.  Forty percent of automobiles in Sao Paulo are flex-fueled and can run on ethanol or gasoline.  When ethanol was more expensive than gasoline, the percentage of flex-fueled vehicles using gasoline rose from 14 percent to 76 percent and ozone pollution dropped 20 percent.
Another complicating factor besets EPA.  The EPA has a simulator model calledMotor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) which measures tailpipe exhausts from automobiles.  States are required to use MOVES to demonstrate compliance with federal air quality standards.  MOVES predicts increased air pollution using ethanol.  This creates a problem justifying increased ethanol use mandated by ESIA.  The Urban Air Institute and others are suing the EPA because they have evidence MOVES incorrectly predicts increased air pollution from ethanol.
The situations described show EPA is attempting to reduce ground- level ozone by regulation while it is promoting use of ethanol that may increase ozone through ESIA mandates.
Due to the non-existent link between asthma or asthma attacks on ground-level ozone and extreme cost of reducing ozone standards below the current standard of an average 75 ppb ozone over an eight-hour period, consideration of lowering the standard should be stopped.  An additional factor is EPA’s charge with promoting ethanol use which may cause increased ozone.  The EPA is zealous in its attempts to promote new pollution standards.  Only Congressional action can stop their work.  It is necessary citizens of this country contact their two U. S. Senators and House member to inform them of their concerns.