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smoggy city

Has Ozone Found its Goldilocks Zone?

smoggy cityA federal court yesterday rejected arguments that the current primary standard for ozone is either too weak or too strong, in a defeat for both environmental groups and business interests – but said the EPA would have to reconsider the secondary standard for the pollutant.

Primary standards are designed to protect public health, while secondary standards aim to protect public welfare, which includes protections for visibility, animals, crops, other vegetation and buildings. Both standards were last revised in 2008, under George W. Bush’s administration, to 0.075 parts per million over eight hours.

The US Court of Appeals in Washington rejected arguments by 12 states, New York City, the District of Columbia and several environmental groups, who said the ozone standard was too weak, the Washington Post reports. Meanwhile Mississippi and an association of industrial groups – including the National Association of Manufacturers – argued that the standards were too strict.

In rejecting both arguments, the judges said, “Unlike Goldilocks, this court cannot demand that EPA get things ‘just right.'”

The Obama administration proposed in January 2010 to tighten the 8-hour primary standard to a level in the range of 0.06-0.07 ppm, and to establish a seasonal secondary standard in the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. But businesses and Republicans in Congress objected over economic concerns, and in September 2011 the White House shelved the plans. At the time USA Today said the regulations could have cost businesses between $20 billion and $90 billion annually, “making it by far the most expensive new rule on the federal books.”

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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