The Air’s Getting Cleaner? How Did We Miss That?

By March 24, 2010Energy, Regulations

Thanks to Ed Morrissey of Hot Air for alerting us to this overlooked bit of news, reported by the Institute for Energy Research:

On Wednesday, March 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly released their annual report on air quality trends.  You would never know it from picking up a newspaper or reading news websites, but the report contains great news. Air quality in the United States has dramatically improved and, according to all indicators, it will continue to improve. …

Since 1990, nationwide air quality has improved significantly for the six common air pollutants. These six pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), lead, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Nationally, air pollution was lower in 2008 than in 1990 for:

  • 8-hour ozone, by 14 percent
  • annual PM2.5 (since 2000), by 19 percent
  • PM10 , by 31 percent
  • Lead, by 78 percent
  • NO2 , by 35 percent
  • 8-hour CO, by 68 percent
  • annual SO2 , by 59 percent …

The comment period ended Monday for the EPA’s proposed reduction of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards from ozone below the current level of 75 parts per billion (ppb), established in 2008. Even under the standards in existence in 1990, reduced in 1997 to 84 ppb, and even in a time of growing population and economic activity, America’s air has gotten cleaner. Given the improvements in air quality and the lack of evidence that lower ozone standards will produce any significant health improvements, it makes no sense to hammer a fragile economy with stricter ozone rules.

As for the rhetorical question, how did we miss this, the Institute for Energy Research says it found no major media reports on the EPA’s new report. Then again, the EPA’s news release didn’t cry out for attention:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making the most recent data available on the state of the nation’s air quality. Air pollution impacts public health, the environment, and the Earth’s climate, and understanding these impacts are important priorities for the agency. EPA regulatory actions and voluntary efforts have led to cleaner cars, industries and consumer products, that in turn have contributed to improvements in the nation’s air.

That’s what’s known in the journalism business as backing into the story.

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