WINSTON-SALEM — The following editorial appeared on Tuesday in The Winston-Salem Journal:
The state agency responsible for protecting North Carolina's environment is in an odd position. It is fighting federal air-pollution standards, raising arguments more likely to be heard from Duke Energy or the Department of Commerce.
Efforts by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop new ozone standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are disappointing. DENR should be advocating, instead, for stronger air-quality standards.
EPA will announce strict new ozone standards soon. The current standard is 75 parts per billion parts of air, and EPA has indicated preference for a standard somewhere between 60 and 70. Ozone is a problem in most North Carolina cities. Depending on where along the 60-to-70 parts spectrum EPA sets the limit, North Carolina urban areas will have adjustments to make.
Sheila Holman, the head of the Division of Air Quality within DENR, recently told McClatchy Newspapers that additional pollution-control equipment would be needed if the new standards were imposed. That, she says, could lead to a loss of jobs.
DENR should be making a different argument - the health argument. The agency should be noting that ozone pollution affects more than 100 million Americans, that ozone is a powerful respiratory irritant, especially during warm weather.
Some liken it to sunburn on the lungs. Ozone exposure has led to an increase in hospital admissions and emergency room visits. Ozone can also reduce the body's immunity to infection.
If DENR wants to make an economic argument, it should be looking at the financial costs of putting millions of North Carolinians at risk of respiratory issues. ...
Rather than make the arguments for the industries that produce the pollutants that mix to form ozone, DENR should be arguing for the health and well-being of state residents. ...