Oregon and Washington In Good Shape With New National Ozone Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency came out with new rules Thursday that will make it harder to pollute the air with ozone, the main ingredient in smog.
The new allowable threshold in the air is 70 parts per billion, down from 75.
While many cities across the U.S. will be forced to make changes to improve air quality, Northwest communities are generally in good shape for now.
Ozone results when vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution cooks in the summer heat. The EPA is lowering the allowable ozone rate to protect public health, particularly for children and the elderly.
The rules are expected to be controversial in places that exceed the rate. That's where sometimes-costly changes will be necessary to improve air quality.
As of 2014 all sites in Oregon and Washington came in below the new standard. David Collier, air quality planning manager with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, says pollution controls like vehicle inspection stations have helped keep smog levels low.
“Even if we have some challenges, all the work we’ve invested so far has really paid off for us,” he said.
But climate change and population growth could lead to more ozone in the air. Collier says areas that are now on the bubble should be thinking about additional ways to keep emissions in check.
In Oregon, Medford and Hermiston have the highest ozone rates, at 64 parts per billion (ppb) in 2014. In Washington, Enumclaw is the worst at 65 ppb, largely because of pollution drifting down from Seattle.
These rates are based on rolling three-year averages (specifically of the fourth highest eight-hour period each year). Numbers from 2015 are still coming in, but early indications in the Seattle region show higher ozone rates that could bump up the overall average.
Correction: Oct. 5, 2015. An earlier version of this story used the incorrect unit of measure for ozone. The EPA lowered the ozone standard to 70 parts per billion.
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