Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a reporter at WNYC covering economic development.
New York City and its surrounding suburbs exceed smog limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — but not by much.
The agency’s latest data found that the region is one of 45 areas in the country that exceed air quality standards for ground level ozone.
The standards were set by the Bush administration in 2008, and allow 75 parts of smog per billion cubic feet of air.
The agency said that the noncompliant areas were assigned a classification based on how close they are to meeting the standards. The classifications range from marginal, moderate, serious, severe and extreme.
Most of the areas that bypassed the standards, including the New York region, are classified as marginal – that is, closest to meeting the standards.
The EPA said it expects these areas would be able to meet the standards within three years, usually as a result of recent and pending federal pollution control measures.
“The standards are too weak,” said Frank O'Donnell, president of the DC-based non-profit environmental group Clean Air Watch.
O’Donnell is pushing for the EPA to move ahead with low-sulfur gasoline. “Now that gasoline prices are dropping, we urge the House Energy and Commerce Committee to drop plans to kneecap EPA authority to see cleaner gas standards,” said O’Donnell.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said in a statement that the city has made progress on cleaner air — cutting greenhouse gasses by 12 percent below 2005 levels.
In an email, an EPA spokeswoman said it was a “coincidence” that the data was released on May 1, World Asthma Day. Smog can reduce lung function and aggravate asthma.