Indiana officials push back against reducing ozone levels

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana environmental officials and Republican Gov. Mike Pence are pushing back against new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that would reduce the amount of ozone levels allowed in the atmosphere.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials say the state's current air quality improvements are adequate. They're also downplaying what medical researchers say is an unacceptable public health risk, saying that consensus science behind the proposed changes can't be trusted, the Indianapolis Star ( ) reported.

More than 1,000 studies have proved that breathing ozone reduces the ability of even the healthiest lungs to draw in air, according to public health researchers. And those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia are particularly at risk.

But the state's top air-quality regulators claim lowering ozone levels won't help people with asthma and other conditions made worse by ozone, and they argue that the proposal will kill jobs and diminish the quality of life in Indiana.

"Raising the cost of living for Hoosiers without obtaining a corresponding increase in their quality of life, especially in documented health improvements, decreases the overall quality of life for the Hoosiers we are here to protect," Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Tom Easterly said in a press release.

In November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed that smog-forming ozone be limited from 75 parts per billion to as low as 60 parts per billion. The federal agency estimates that in the next decade the new regulations would prevent between 320,000 and 960,000 asthma attacks in children, as well as between 710 and 4,300 premature deaths.

The proposal is in response to scientific evidence showing how lung function is reduced even in healthy people when exposed to the current ozone levels, public health officials said.

Indiana has consistently received a low rating for its air quality from groups such as the American Lung Association. The health organization's 2015 State of the Air Report, which was released last month, gave "F'' or "D'' grades to 16 of the 29 counties that monitor air quality in Indiana.

The new standard could save as much as $38 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Air pollution puts people out of work, (because of) missed days at school or at the job," said Stephen Jay, a professor of medicine and public health at Indiana University School of Medicine. "Air pollution is a true job killer."

Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt has said a majority of Indiana's counties are well on their way to meeting the 65 to 70 parts per billion standard by 2025. But he claims problems would surface is the Environmental Protection Agency enforces the 60 parts per billion standard.

In his letter to the federal agency, which was co-signed by 10 Republican governors, Pence said the proposed regulations would cause the U.S. to lose 1.4 million jobs each year.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

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