March 16, 2008

Our Health is Worth It

The Denver Post puts its succinctly in an editorial today: safeguarding public health from ozone pollution may not be easy, but for our health, it's worth the effort.

The editorial comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency's decision last week to strengthen federal health standards limiting ozone. While strengthening health standards, the EPA's decision did ignore the recommendations of its own health scientists.

While we applaud the Denver Post for reminding us that our health matters most, we're not sure we agree that we face such a daunting challenge. True, reducing ozone means cleaning our cars, requiring polluters to upgrade emission controls, among other actions, but is all this really that difficult to get implemented?

If it's about money, then we don't think so. The EPA's own cost-benefit studies show that society reaps up to $8.50 for every $1 spent on reducing ozone pollution. Those benefits come from lower hospital bills and increased productivity in work and school. We're hard pressed to call such a payback difficult to achieve.

If it's about getting the pollution controls in place to reduce the ozone, then we're also a bit skeptical of any difficulty here. Here in the Denver metro area, some major sources of ozone forming pollution have yet to take any steps to curb their emissions. These sources include the area's coal burning power plants, which emit on average 160% more ozone forming pollution than similar power plants back east.

In fact, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, along with Environmental Defense and several local governments have identified a number of strategies that can be easily implemented to reduce ozone in the Denver metro area.

Instead of bemoaning any "difficulty" that may go along with reducing ozone, let's first look at the simplicity of the matter. It's our health on the line after all, it should be easy.

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