EPA’s New Smog Standards Cause Political Uproar

On April 15, the U.S. EPA will release a list of counties across the country that exceed its new standards for ground-level ozone (the main component of smog), and the impending announcement is already kicking up a political poopstorm. Local and state governments in overly smoggy areas will be required to devise plans to improve their air; failure to meet strict deadlines will result in loss of highway funds, among other penalties. Some 40 percent of the nation’s population lives in areas that fail to meet the new standards. Many of the new problem areas are rural — including, depressingly, national parks. At least eight of the most popular national parks — Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Great Smoky Mountains among them — will fail to meet new air standards. The threat of penalties has members of Congress and governors frantically lobbying EPA chief Mike Leavitt to make changes in the EPA’s designations. Leavitt says he has heard from or met with dozens of legislators in recent weeks.