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NYC, 44 Other Regions, Blow 2008 Smog Standards

Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - 10:00 AM

(photo by: harry_nl)

(New York -- WNYC) New York City and surrounding suburbs currently blow past smog limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency’s latest data, released Tuesday, found that forty-five areas of the country fail to meet air quality standards for ground level ozone.

The standards were set by the Bush Administration in 2008. They allow 75 parts of smog per billion cubic feet of air. As you can see on the map below, pockets of the country in almost all regions fail to meet air quality standards, but the bulk of "nonattainment" areas are along the Northeast corridor and throughout California. (See the EPA's designations for each area here.)

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 to moderate, serious, severe and extreme. Most of the areas that do not meet 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 comply 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 1st, World Asthma Day. Smog can reduce lung function and aggravate asthma.

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