The state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on two of its famed "urgings," wherein the General Assembly would vote as a whole to recommend the federal government take action on a certain issue.
The two tomorrow: A thoughtful request to the Environmental Protection Agency not to strengthen federal air-quality standards and a plea to the U.S. Congress that it amend the Endangered Species Act to exclude regions experiencing a drought.
Both urgings respectfully ask our federal overlords to do some bad, bad things.
The national ambient air quality standard sets limits on the amounts of six pollutants that linger in the air. The EPA announced in June of last year that it is exploring changing the standard for ground-level ozone, or smog. The current standard for ground-level ozone is 0.08 parts per million. The EPA is weighing whether to tighten that to 0.07-0.075 ppm or even .065 ppm. This pollutant is particularly nasty â it's been linked to asthma and heart disease, even death, and is notorious for its impact on children living with asthma. In September, Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, a D.C.-based environmental advocacy group, equated breathing it to "rubbing sandpaper on the lungs."
Many of the nation's populous pockets are designated as areas of non-attainment, or not meeting the 0.08 ppm standard. Metro Atlanta is one of them. Politicians hate the designation not only because it means their constituents are breathing filthy air, but because the affected regions risk losing prized federal transportation funding if air quality doesn't improve.
The Senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, cites a study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers that says more stringent air quality standards would spell economic doom for Georgia. The study claims a .07 ppm standard would cost the Atlanta area an estimated $9.8 billion annually and in the year 2025 would result in "the loss of $11.5 billion in gross regional product, 79,300 jobs, $8.9 billion in disposable income, 112,800 people, and $330.9 million in state tax revenue." The stricter standard of .065 ppm would be even more costly.
Well, that sucks and all, but it may be irrelevant. Rebecca Watts Hull of Mothers and Others for Clean Air says that, according to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, "the EPA may not consider implementation costs in setting primary and secondaryâ national ambient air quality standards. The Clean Air Act states â and is supported by the Supreme Court's ruling â that the EPA's job is to "identify the maximum airborne concentration of a pollutant that the public health can tolerate, decrease the concentration to provide an 'adequate' margin of safety, and set the standard at that level."
"It's important to note that the [National Association of Manufacturers' study] did not take into account the costs of not increasing the standard," Watts Hull says. "There are peer-reviewed studies which analyze that impact. In 2004, a study concluded the cost of failing to meet existing ozone standards was costing $5.7 billion a year in terms of premature deaths, emergency room visits, school and work absences."
Watts Hull says she and members of the medical community plan to attend tomorrow's committee hearing.
Blame the drought for the committee's second resolution. In the first months of the water-supply crisis â back when Lake Lanier looked like a fast-sinking mudhole â members of the Georgia delegation in the U.S. Congress proposed easing the Federal Endangered Species Act during a state-declared drought, especially when it came to federally managed lakes along river basins. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as you may know, has been in the legislative cross-hairs because it continues to release water from Buford Dam to sustain stream flows and lake levels for endangered mussels and sturgeon downstream. Problems abound with this idea and it truly makes one wonder what the energy companies â *cough* Southern Co. *cough* â think. Their plants rely on water to operate just like the species downstream do to survive.
We hope to be able to attend. Never did a simple act of urging sound so interesting.
(Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange)
Imagine that, a developer running regional planning. Does Jeff Fuqua know about this?
Great picture and caption.
cep, i hope you become homeless.
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