Strengthening Federal Clean Air Standards

For Californians, not a day goes by without hearing some remark referring to smog or the quality of the air they breathe. One becomes accustom to shrugging such remarks off without a second thought after a while. Sure the air is getting cleaner, manufactures and people alike seem to be doing all they can do to clean up the air they breathe. Clean air folks are starting to be labeled as reactionaries.

As with every organized group there are those among them that deserve such labels, but when it comes down to the air which people have to breathe very day, extra emphasis is a good thing. Federal and local regulations along with public support are responsible for substantial gains in air quality in the last ten years. “Air quality in Southern California continues to improve, with 1995 registering some of the lowest levels in decades. Yet Southern California still experiences the worst air quality in the nation requiring continued diligence to meet air quality standards” These improvements provide the grounds for continuing the battle for air quality instead of grounds for a pat on the back and job well done. Federal clean air standards should be strengthened.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with an arsenal of reputable agencies have drafted a plan known as the 1997 Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) in which detailed summaries regarding current and future air quality measures are brought forward for critics and supporters alike to discern. It is in this plan along with supporting facts regarding beneficial economic gains and support from the medical community that make the case for continuous and stricter air quality standards.

The 1997 AQMP sets fourth the guidelines in which the Federal government should set standards for state and local governments along with private agencies to impose and enforce. The focus of the plan comes as a result of new understanding regarding pollutants known as ozone and M10. This new information flows from countless scientific studies. For example, “Use of the most current air quality information (1995), including special particulate matter data from the PM10 Technical Enhancement Program” .

There findings show direct links in ozone and the PM10 pollutants. In chapter three of the plan one can find the scientific data based on base year emission levels dating back to 1987 as they relate to current and future emission levels. Data clearly show’s improvement in Southern California’s quality of air in the ten year period between 1987 and 1997. The data also provides needed understanding of the major contributors to smog and other ozone depleting pollutants.

“Overall, total mobile source emissions account for 61 percent of the VOC and 88 percent of the Nox emissions for these two pollutants” The knowledge of this information has been a major factor in the control of these pollutants produced by the vehicles driven by millions everyday weather on the job or just tooling around town with the top down. While the information in this plan requires a good deal of scientific knowledge to understand the general message is clear. Populations are increasing which increases the demands placed on the environment. Without continual improvement regarding air quality there will be massive amounts of ozone depleting emissions created and unchecked in the environment. This plan should be imposed by the Federal government. It provides the method for promising futures not only for the environment but the economy as well.

Along with the benefits in improved air quality that will result form the implementation of the 1997 AQMP substantial gains in technology will be achieved in the areas of zero emission vehicles and the development of alternative fuels. “On-road motor vehicles which include passenger cars, light duty trucks, medium duty vehicles, heavy duty vehicles, and motorcycles, currently number approximately 10 million in the South Coast Air Basin.” If this seems an alarming number of vehicles of which contribute 61 percent of the VOC and 88 percent of the Nox emissions in the air; you better sit down. “In 1995 these vehicles traveled more than 300 million miles per day, and by the year 2010, vehicle miles traveled is projected to be about 380 million miles per day” . This is an alarming number of vehicles along with an alarming number of miles to boot. The implementation of the 1997 plan will require the sale of zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2003.

This demand places immense pressure on the automotive industry to come up with suitable alternatives for the combustion engine. The technology gains from this industrial effort have already begun to show themselves at car shows throughout the country. All manufactures will benefit from this new technology, from those who produce the batteries that run them to manufacturers of the lightweight materials needed to produce such automobiles. The public reaps immediate gains from this technology such as the cell phone’s carried by thousands of people every day in Southern California.

Some of the most notable technologies include nickel metal-hydride, lithium-ion, and sodium-nickel chloride. Nickel metal-hydride batteries are responsible for the ability to constantly charge ones cell phone battery without it developing a memory position resulting in limited to no use of the battery at all. Lithium-ion batteries provide extended use of many battery operated items used in every day life such as flash lights, cameras, radios…

Honda and Toyota have announced they will introduce pilot fleets of electric vehicles with nickel metal-hydride batteries in 1988 . The examples in technological advancements that result from stricter air quality controls are endless and cannot be fully realized without implementation of the controls described in the 1997 AQMP. As if the available information thus far were not enough to support the EPA’s plans for air quality, the medical community has stepped forward to support efforts for cleaner air as well.

The proposed plan clearly benefits air quality and the economy through advances in technology. Support from the medical community will convince the stragglers that don’t feel air quality and technology will directly benefit themselves. “Dr. Barry S. Levy, American Public Health Association president and an environmental health physician, called today for the adoption of EPA’s proposed regulations to lower levels of particulate (soot) matter and ozone (a chemical that helps cause smog) in the air. This effort will protect children and adults from illness, disability and death, and reduce health care costs by billions of dollars” .

Public health is of major concern when it comes to the environment. The air people breath daily is vital to their existence and the quality of that air is one of the major factors to their quality of life. According to DR. Levy, “The proposed EPA standard are based on well-designed scientific studies that link adverse health effect to the fine particulate matter and ozone” . The American Public Health Association (APA) is considered on of the oldest and largest organizations devoted to public health.

The APA credits itself with some of the top professionals in the field of public health. They have conducted more studies and published more information regarding public health than any other organization of its kind in the world so when they support the EPA’s findings for stricter air quality control measures they speak for a vast majority of health professionals. Common sense requires one to feel a sense of dread at the possibility of death as a result of poor air quality. The EPA has built a sound case for enacting stricter air qualities and they have a great plan for its enactment.

It is clearer now that the adoption of the 1997 AQMP has far reaching benefits for all. Scientifically sound evidence points to the reality of cleaner air from the plans enactment. Increases in technology will create economic growth and business opportunity. And finally health risks resulting from poor air quality can be substantially reduced for both children and adults. The 1997 AQMP also provides measures for meeting the standards proposed in its regulations. Through, “Intercredit Trading Program, Air Quality Investment Program and Promotion of Catalyst-Surface Coating Technology Programs for Air Conditioning Units.

These measures are designed to enhance compliance flexibility, to facilitate the implementation of the command and control measures” . The command and control measures of the plan are simply implementation and enforcement policies which incorporate assistance and rewards for complying to regulations. Most of these programs are already successfully being operated at the present time. There is also an Air Quality Assistance Fund which has been enacted to help small businesses comply with stricter emission regulations. The plan provides a “loan guarantee for up to 90 percent of the loan amount, ranging from a minimum of $15,000 to a maximum of $250,000” .

Money can be used for retrofitting operations to the point of complying with any portion of the AQMP. A study conducted buy Dr. Steven Meyer, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Project on Environmental Politics and Policy says, “‘Job growth–not job loss– is associated with stronger environmental policies. The 10 states with the strongest environmental policies appear to have experienced annual employment growth rates almost .6 percent higher than those of the 10 states with the weakest environmental policies'”. Opponents of Federal regulations often rely on job scare tactics to kill a useful initiative such as the one proposed by the EPA but the facts are, jobs are created when improvements in technology are made.

The plan provides a complete package from reasons for change through benefits of such changes right down to the actual implementation of its policy’s. It provides areas of assistance for those who have trouble with compliance and places adequate emphasis on continued improvement in all areas regarding air quality. With regard to the health of the planet and the there is little reason remaining for the Federal government not to enforce stricter air quality measures.