Ozone is a major contributor to smog, seen here blanketing Los Angeles.

mr-pi / flickr

State Regulators: Stricter Ozone Standard Would be Hard for Oklahoma to Meet

  • Joe Wertz
Ozone is a major contributor to smog, seen here blanketing Los Angeles.

mr-pi / flickr

Ozone is a major contributor to smog, seen here blanketing Los Angeles.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for stricter ozone standards has been praised by environmentalists as a step in the right direction and derided by industry groups, which argue the rules will cost jobs and lead to higher prices for electricity and natural gas.

In Oklahoma, local government officials say tougher rules aren’t needed because ozone levels are already improving, and the state Department of Environmental Quality says the state would have a hard time meeting the proposed rules, which would reduce ozone standard from 75 parts per billon to between 65 and 70.

The Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports:

Data reveals that Oklahoma City and Tulsa meet the current standard. Oklahoma City’s six ozone monitoring stations average between 71 ppb and 74 ppb, [The Association of Central Oklahoma Government’s John] Johnson said. Tulsa’s ozone average is 72 ppb, according to the Ozone Alert website.

The state will have significant difficulties meeting the new proposed standard at most, if not all, ozone monitors across the state, said Skylar McElhaney, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Ground-level ozone fuels smog and can worsen respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including those with asthma. Children, older adults and those who spend a lot of time outside are considered especially vulnerable. Weather, wildfires and electricity demand have all played a role in Oklahoma’s declining ozone levels, Tuttle reports.

It might be another year before the EPA’s ozone standards are approved, Tuttle reports. The EPA is also taking public comments on an even stricter ozone standard of 60 parts per billion.

From the Journal Record:

The manufacturing trade association pointed to a study by NERA Economic Consulting that said the 60-ppb air standard would claim more than 13,000 jobs in Oklahoma.

Also, the state would have to pay $846 million in compliance costs.

In addition, Oklahoman families would see a 32-percent hike in residential natural gas prices and a 15-percent increase in residential electricity costs, while household incomes would drop an average of $660 per year.

Officials with the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club questioned the validity of “industry-fueled” studies:

“Big polluters that are trying to protect their bottom lines almost always cry out against pollution safeguards,” Pearson said. “But the reality is that these standards are going to save Oklahomans millions in health costs.”

Since 2008, scientists, medical experts and public health advocates have consistently highlighted the need for a stronger standard, Pearson said.