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Delayed Ozone Standards Will Harm Our Communities and Perpetuate Environmental Injustice

City surrounded by smog

On August 21, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will discontinue its reconsideration of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone and instead focus on a new scientific review. 

Under the Clean Air Act, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are reconsidered every five years. In 2020, the Trump Administration declined to update the existing NAAQS ozone standard of 70 ppb, despite the overwhelming evidence that lower ground-level ozone standards are essential to protect our communities. 

Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is a significant threat to public health, especially for those living in areas of high pollution. Ozone air pollution exacerbates asthma and leads to long-term health impacts including cardiac and pulmonary concerns and even death. According to the American Lung Association, nearly 1 in 3 Americans–119 million people–live in places with dangerous levels of pollution.

In June 2023, seventeen of the eighteen members of EPA’s independent scientific review panel concluded that “the scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the current primary and secondary standards are not protective of public health and public welfare.” They also reported that medical research provides convincing evidence that the current ozone standard level of 70 ppb will cause “increases in childhood emergency department visits and hospital admissions for asthma.” 

In response to the EPA’s announcement, YECA National Organizer and Spokesperson Tori Goebel offered the following statement:

“Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) is deeply disappointed by this delay in the much-needed and overdue reconsideration of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. This decision makes little sense and will cause lasting harm for communities already overburdened by environmental injustice. According to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, improved ozone standards will help reduce burdens that disproportionately affect frontline communities. Additionally, the EPA’s independent Clean Air Science Advisory Committee also recommended strengthening this critical standard. 

“This delay will lead to more asthma attacks, more missed days of work and school, more hospital and ER visits, and more deaths. The realities of the climate crisis and ongoing fossil fuel pollution have been on full display this summer, yet our leaders continue to ignore science by delaying meaningful action. 

“As young Christians, we know that a failure to reduce pollution is a failure to love our neighbors. We urge the EPA to reconsider this delay that will only lead to more suffering. Additionally, the EPA must finalize the strongest possible protections for other pollution safeguards including methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure, traffic emissions from cars and heavy-duty trucks, hazardous air toxics from coal-fired plants, carbon pollution from power plants, and–most crucially–national standards for soot (PM2.5). There is no time to waste.”

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