[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency [official website] proposed tougher standards for US air quality Thursday, recommending reducing the amount of ground-level ozone [press release; advisory committee report, PDF] from 0.08 parts per million (ppm) to between 0.07 and 0.075 ppm. The EPA is also seeking comments about the possibility of leaving the level at 0.08 ppm, or reducing it to as low as 0.06 ppm. Ground level ozone, which is harmful to the lungs and aggravates asthma, is the primary component of smog. In a conference call with reporters EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson [official website] said the move was made in response to scientific evidence that "the current standard is insufficient to protect public health," and that the only reason the EPA is taking comments on keeping the old standard despite this evidence is to hear the full range of opinions.
Pro-environment Clean Air Watch [advocacy website] President Frank O'Donnell identified political pressure [press release] as the reason why Johnson is seeking comments about leaving the level at what was found to be insufficient to protect public health. O'Donnell also said Clean Air Watch is heavily concerned about industry lobbying, citing recent visits to the White House by groups who would be affected by the change. On Thursday, the National Association of Manufactures [advocacy website] said it will ask the Bush administration to maintain the current standard [press release], arguing that the manufacturing industry is still spending billions each year to meet the 0.08 ppm standard enacted in 1997. AP has more.