Air all out of whack

Counties soon-to-be out of compliance

Counties soon-to-be out of compliance

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new standard for smog that leaves some people breathing easier and some businesses gasping.

The current standard of allowable ground-level ozone is 84 parts per billion, and it was set in 1997. The EPA is reducing it to 75 ppb—less stringent than the 60-70 ppb the EPA’s science advisers recommended.

Despite pleas from industry lobbyists, who say the new standard will cut into the economy, the EPA said the current standard was not enough to protect against asthma, heart attacks and respiratory problems. (The EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when setting the standard). The agency says the tougher standard will prevent about 1,100 premature deaths, 890 nonfatal heart attacks and 5,600 hospital or emergency room visits a year.

EPA reports say 85 counties don’t meet the current standard of 84 ppb, including parts of Southern and Central California, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and part of Massachusetts.

Butte County meets it by a sliver, but the new standard will put us among 345 counties out of compliance. (Others, as shown on the EPA’s graphic: Sutter, Tehama and Shasta.)