EPA announced today it won't tighten the existing insufficient limits on ozone pollution. The agency made this decision despite overwhelming evidence that the current standards fail to protect the health of the watershed's most vulnerable residents. EPA also failed to weigh how inaction on ozone could undercut the plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways.
Ozone pollution harms lung function, aggravates asthma, and increases the risk of heart attacks and low birth weight. Our watershed's children, the elderly, and people already in poor health are in the most danger, particularly if they live in low-income communities and communities of color. Medical experts, including pediatricians and heart and lung specialists, have urged EPA to lower the existing limits, which were set in 2015.
Nitrogen oxide emissions, an ozone precursor, damage the Bay by causing acidification, harmful algae blooms that keep sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, and dead zones that lack enough oxygen to sustain fish, crabs, and other underwater Bay species. These emissions also damage trees and other vegetation critical to improving water quality in the Bay.
The Blueprint to clean up the Bay relies on federal standards that reduce nitrogen deposits into the Bay down to acceptable levels. Yet EPA chose to retain its five-year-old standards without considering how doing so imperils the agency's ability to meet its responsibilities under the Blueprint.
Alison Prost, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Vice President of Environmental Protection and Restoration, issued this statement:
"Refusing to strengthen inadequate ozone limits continues the Trump administration's onslaught of reckless regulatory actions that hurt the Bay cleanup and the watershed's most vulnerable residents.
"EPA shamefully disregarded overwhelming scientific and medical evidence it must lower the current standards to protect public health. The agency also ignored its reliance on controlling ozone levels to meet its nitrogen-reduction commitment under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by the 2025 deadline.
"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation looks forward to working with the incoming Biden-Harris administration as it renews EPA's commitment to restoring this national treasure and safeguarding the health of the 18 million people living in its watershed."