Washington, DC. On January 29th. Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, WE ACT’s Federal Policy Advocate, testified in favor of stricter ground-level ozone regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) public hearing.
The new proposal would reduce the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone from 65 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb averaged over an 8 hour time period. While upper-atmospheric ozone protects life from the sun’s UV radiation, ozone at ground-level impairs lung function and is a serious health hazard for children with asthma and senior citizens.
In her testimony, Dr. White-Newsome explained how the new rule would improve public health for Northern Manhattan, particularly in communities of color and/or low-income:
“…In 2012, children aged 0 to 4 in the Harlem visited the emergency room 280 times because of asthma […] since Harlem is not ‘lacking’ in the ingredients that form Ozone, it is extremely important that we use all of the regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms to protect the health of some of our most overburdened, sensitive populations.”
Dr. White-Newsome also referred to language in the EPA’s Regulatory Analysis that highlighted the need to evaluate the new rule from an Environmental Justice (EJ) perspective. Though this official document nodded to EJ considerations such as community involvement in rulemaking and historical burdens, Dr. White-Newsome articulated four further recommendations:
- Finalize the 60 ppb standard for ozone.
- Utilize a multi-pollutant approach for all health-based air quality reviews. Instead of using current review methods for NAAQS which consider each pollutant in isolation, a multi-pollutant evaluation would consider cumulative risks, and identify priority areas for remediation and enforcement.
- Update the Air Quality Index to reflect the new standard, and communicate risk in a digestible way so that sensitive populations can take appropriate measures.
- Create stronger partnerships between regional EPA offices and community stakeholders. Front-line communities should be at the table during the State Implementation Process (SIP) for achieving the national standards.
WE ACT members launched a postcard writing campaign, aimed at building additional support and awareness on the plan which the EPA is expected to issue the final rule by October 1st 2015. For more information on how to get involved, contact WE ACT Organizer, James Burke.