Categories
Environment Local News

Environmental Groups Announce Plans to Sue EPA Over Ozone Standards

Several environmental groups have announced they intend to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. They’re trying to force the agency to take action on ozone pollution.

The letter gives the EPA 60 days to take action, or else the groups will sue. They want the EPA to identify communities that have unsafe levels of ozone pollution, as they’re required to under the Clean Air Act.

John Walke is the director of air for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit.

“We are suing to make sure the Obama Administration does carry out the smog standards that were adopted in 2008 to ensure that clean up measures will be put in place,” he said.

Walke says there’s one way for the EPA to avoid being sued:

“At the end of that 60-day period the administration could have announced concrete steps and issued demands to the states to begin the process to clean up smog pollution,” he said.

But if they don’t, the groups will file a suit in federal court and try to get the EPA put on a court-enforced schedule to order pollution reductions.

The EPA missed a deadline in March to adopt National Ambient Air Quality standards as required under the 2008 Bush-era ozone rules. Last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency was abandoning a draft standard until at least 2013.

According to an EPA review of air quality data over the past three years, 52 metropolitan areas wouldn’t be able to meet the new standard. One of the areas on the list is the Cincinnati metro area, including parts of Northern Kentucky.

Categories
Environment Local News

Louisville Issues Ozone Air Quality Alert for Friday

Louisville Metro Government has issued an air quality alert for tomorrow, warning that high ozone levels may make it hard for some people to breathe.

This is the 19th air quality alert day called so far this year. Kentuckiana Air Education Director Dee Lynch says ozone usually isn’t a problem this late in the year. But she says a high pressure area called a ‘ridge’ is moving into Louisville.

“Things have gotten a little bit stagnant as far as the air quality goes,” Lynch said. We don’t have much for wind, to really move things along out of here, so pollutants have a chance then to kind of build up and cook in the sun.”

Lynch says it’s unusual to issue alerts in October, but not unheard of. Last year there were several alerts for the fires at Fort Knox, but this time the problems are weather-related.

The air quality alert is for sensitive groups—it’s recommended that the young, the elderly, and those with heart or lung problems avoid spending time outdoors.

Categories
Environment Local News

Obama Administration Withdraws Draft to Strengthen Ozone Standards

As Louisville suffers a string of bad air quality days due to high ozone levels, the Obama Administration has announced that it’s withdrawing a proposal to strengthen the nation’s ozone standard.

President Barack Obama has asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw a draft proposal that would tighten the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The proposal would have placed stricter regulations on polluters and required major environmental upgrades for most industries to comply with the Clean Air Act.

The EPA had predicted the proposed rule would protect the health of children and economically-vulnerable citizens. In a statement, Mr. Obama reiterated his administration’s commitment to protecting public health and the environment, but said the new ozone standard would create regulatory uncertainty in uncertain economic times.

The move was widely criticized by environmental groups, who saw the move as capitulation to the GOP.

The announcement won’t affect Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ proposed rate increases before the Public Service Commission. Because the rule was a draft rule, it wasn’t factored into the company’s estimates of environmental upgrades.

The EPA plans to revisit the ozone rule in 2013.

Categories
Environment Local News

UCS Study Links Climate Change, Higher Ozone Levels

Louisville is mired in a string of unhealthy air days, and the ozone levels expected today and tomorrow will be the highest the city has seen so far this year. A study recently released suggests links between climate change and increased ozone exposure.

Ozone happens when pollution from exhaust and industries combine and chemically react in the presence of heat and sunlight. So, as average temperatures in some regions rise, we could see more bad air days.

Liz Perera is a public health expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a co-author of the report.

“What’s going to happen in a warming world is we’re going to see more days that are conducive to ozone formation. What we looked at in our report is what is that going to do to the U.S. population in terms of health impacts.”

Ten percent of children in Jefferson County have asthma, which Perera says is a high percentage, but on par with other regional cities like Cleveland. The report estimates that by 2020, increased exposure to ozone in the United States could raise health care costs by $5.4 billion.

Louisville has already had 19 Air Quality Alert days this year, surpassing last year’s record of 18.

Categories
Environment Local News

Obama Withdraws Draft Rule Meant to Tighten Ozone Standards

As Louisville suffers a string of bad air quality days due to high ozone levels, the Obama Administration has announced that it’s withdrawing a proposal to strengthen the nation’s ozone standard.

President Barack Obama has asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw a draft proposal that would tighten the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The proposal would have placed stricter regulations on polluters and required major environmental upgrades for most to comply with the Clean Air Act.

In a statement, Mr. Obama said his administration was committed to protecting public health and the environment, but he decided the new ozone standard would create regulatory uncertainty in uncertain economic times.

The announcement was simultaneously hailed and panned by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said the Obama Administration needs to take similar steps back with other regulatory moves.

Categories
Local News Uncategorized

Louisville Experiences 12th Air Quality Alert

The Air Pollution Control District has issued an Air Quality Alert for Wednesday and Thursday in Louisville.

This is already Louisville’s 12th Air Quality Alert, compared to 19 all of last year.  There were only four the year before that.

“Especially with ozone, heat and sunlight are needed to form ozone at the ground level,” Matt Stull of the Air Pollution Control District said.   “So, when we see days with hot and humid conditions and combine that with stagnant air, you combine that with emissions from tailpipes, you have a buildup of ozone.”

With a weather forecast predicting more hot weather, it’s likely to cause more alerts.

“We’re looking at high temperature in the mid 90s and continuing on Thursday, maybe low 90s on Friday,” Ryan Sharp of the National Weather Service said.  “And Sunday Monday and Tuesday all look to be in the mid 90s.”

The air in Louisville is currently categorized as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”  People with asthma, children and the elderly could be affected, and are encouraged to limit their time outdoors.

Categories
Environment Local News

Heat Wave Contributes to Poor Air Quality

by Chris McDaniel

Despite predictions that this summer would be milder than usual, Louisville has been experiencing temperatures reaching the mid 90s.  The Climate Prediction Center made the original forecast, and the center still holds that the heat will plateau as the summer goes on.  Ryan Sharp from the National Weather Service says Louisville residents should be thankful for this year’s wet spring.

“Actually it’s helping to keep us a little bit cooler,” Sharp said. “We’re still soaking up and drying out some of the moisture that’s in the soil.  We were talking about that earlier this morning, that if we were browner around here, temperatures would be in the upper 90s to 100 with the heat wave we’ve had.”

These high temperatures have been contributing to air quality alerts for Louisville.  The city is currently classified as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

“Heat is a major factor,” Matt Stull from the Air Pollution Control Board said. “The main factors though, for the formation of ozone are cloudless skies, winds that calm to the point of almost being still, and then also the amounts of pollution that are coming in.  When you have the combination of all three of those, you’re going to have higher ozone.”

Stull says these readings are earlier than usual.

“Generally we have the bulk of the air quality alerts in July and August, so since we haven’t really hit summer yet, this is early,” Stull said. “But, that can also vary from year to year.  Last year we had a couple of days in April when we saw higher ozone levels and had to issue alerts.”

Stull advises the elderly and those with asthma to limit their activity to the early morning hours to avoid the buildup of ozone during the early to late evening.

Categories
Local News

Air Quality Alert Declared Today

An Air Quality Alert has been issued for the Louisville metro area. Ozone levels will be at an unhealthy level today.

The Louisville Air Pollution Control District advises that those sensitive to ozone include children and active adults, older adults, and people with heart disease, and lung disease, such as asthma. These individuals should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

You can avoid adding more ozone to the atmosphere by reducing automobile use today, delaying mowing, and avoiding refueling your car during daylight hours.

Today’s Air Quality Forecast

Categories
Environment Local News

New Smog Standards Pose Problem for L'ville

While Louisville struggles to come into compliance with current Environmental Protection Agency standards for smog, the U.S. agency is proposing even stricter standards.  Smog, or ground level ozone, forms when vehicle and other emissions react in sunlight.  It can aggravate lung problems and has been linked to premature deaths.  Metro Air Pollution Control District spokesman Matt Stull says attaining an “in compliance” rating from the EPA on the new standard will take time.

“In the release from the EPA they say that attainment could be based and probably will be based on some technologies that aren’t even developed yet.  So, you know, we’re hopeful that those come out and will help us to reach whatever number is proposed.”

The EPA is holding public meetings on the proposed new standards in early February.

Categories
Environment Local News

Kentuckians Urged: Drive Less This Summer

The arrival of summer in Louisville can also mean the arrival of air quality alert days.  The culprits are vehicle emissions from burning motor fuel combined with hotter temperatures.  And the result is often levels of ozone or soot that aren’t safe for people who are vulnerable to breathing problems.  This year the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet wants to encourage motorists to drive less.  Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says they will spend $200,000 dollars on ads as well as an online survey about air quality.

“We will be looking at things such as the number of web hits.  We’ll have some help analyzing how many people heard the various broadcast promotions or advertisements.  And we will know how many people took the survey,” says Wolfe.

The Cabinet is also encouraging people to learn more about ways to reduce driving.  Beyond bicycling, carpooling, and taking public transportation, Wolfe says Kentuckians should consider living closer to work and school.  They can also help curb suburban sprawl by promoting developments with mixed land uses.