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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 14, 2002
4:58 PM
CONTACT:  US Public Interest Research Group
Rebecca Stanfield or Liz Hitchcock, 202-546-9707
Metro Washington Air Smog Levels Soar
Air Unhealthy to Breathe for Past Two Weeks As Bush Administration Finalizes Plans to Weaken Clean Air Rules
 
WASHINGTON - August 14 - All too familiar with that burning sensation in their eyes and throat brought on by the smog in the air, Washington, DC area residents are suffering through the 33rd unhealthy air day of 2002 today, and for the fifth day in a row, air pollution levels have exceeded the federal health standard.

This morning, children, the elderly, people with asthma or heart disease, and even healthy adults heard a now-familiar warning to limit outdoor activity. This warning came as the U.S. EPA took another step toward weakening clean air rules to allow power plants, refineries and other major industrial sources of pollution to escape requirements to install modern pollution controls.

"The smog that is choking Washington this summer should sound the alarm at the White House that this is not the time to retreat on clean air," said Rebecca Stanfield, Clean Air Advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Unfortunately for public health, even during a smog crisis, the Bush administration's dedication to the polluters' agenda appears unflinching," she continued.

Based on data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, it has been unhealthy to breathe the air in the Washington DC area on ten of the last fourteen days. In addition:

  • During June, July and the first half of August, the air quality in the DC-area has been smoggy enough to create health problems nearly every other day.
  • DC area air quality has been deemed "good" on only sixteen days since June 1, or on one out of every five days.
  • Smog levels in the DC area exceeded the old, less-protective health standard that was replaced by EPA in 1997 eight times so far this year, tying with 1993 for worst air quality in the last decade based on that standard.

According to a report published yesterday by the Bureau of National Affairs, "Changes to regulations that would allow companies to avoid enforcement actions under the new source review air pollution program were sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget Aug. 13 for review." This is the last step in the regulatory process before EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman signs the changes into law.

"Administrator Whitman can still decide against signing this rollback," said Stanfield. "If she's breathing the same air we're breathing this summer, she can find the will to stand up to the polluters and do the right thing for the public."

U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.

see Exceedances and Ozone Action Days as of August 13, 2002 - http://www.pirg.org/alerts/route.asp?id2=7598

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