Your Chance to Weigh In on the EPA's New Smog Proposal

Looking west across San Pablo Bay, a tanker crosses in front of Mount Tamalpais, showing the poor air quality in December, 2013. (Craig Miller/KQED)
Looking west across San Pablo Bay, a tanker crosses in front of Mount Tamalpais, showing the poor air quality in December, 2013. (Craig Miller/KQED)

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is holding a hearing in Sacramento on Monday, Feb. 2, to hear public comment on new smog rules the Obama Administration says could prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of premature deaths from air pollution.

The hearing  is one of just three across the nation where the EPA will listen to input on a new proposal to reduce ozone from sources like diesel trucks, tractors, and oil refineries. The new standard would be 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), compared to today's standard of 75 ppb.

Certain areas of California register some of the worst ozone pollution in the nation.

"Living in the Central Valley, it's dangerous to your health. You take risks by living here," says Rosanna Esparza, of Bakersfield, an environmental activist with Clean Water Action. "The standards as they are don't protect us. Those are minimal."

The San Joaquin Valley is still struggling to meet the current ozone standard,  set in 2008, and an even older standard of 84 ppb from 1997.  The San Joaquin Valley Air District says it would take a miracle to meet the new standard; they say it would mean people all over the valley would have to swap out their cars and diesel trucks for zero-emission vehicles.

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A lower ozone threshold would also mean some counties, like Alameda and Contra Costa, which don't currently violate the ozone standard, would likely be out of compliance with federal air rules. (Check out a map here). Air quality flags warning of health risks would come out on more days of the year. Regions that don't comply with the new standards risk fines and the loss of federal transportation money, among other consequences.

The oil and gas industry strongly opposes the new smog rules. The California Manufacturers and Technology Association says a lower ozone standard would cost businesses – and kill jobs.

Federal law requires the EPA to base a decision on health science alone, not on the cost of achieving a standard.

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If you can't make it to the hearing, you can submit public comment online through March 17th.

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