​New Regulations on Smog Remain as Divisive as Ever | ozone standard of 70 parts per billion would prevent 325,000 cases of childhood asthma and 1,440 premature deaths. A standard of 65 parts per billion would prevent about a million cases of asthma and 4,300 deaths.

 (nytimes.com) In November, the Obama administration released a draft proposal of an updated ozone regulation, which would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution to 65 to 70 parts per billion. That range is less stringent than the standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups, but the environmental agency's proposal also sought public comment on a 60 parts-per-billion plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be stricter.

Now, in the final days before the rule's release, industry groups are pushing for a new standard of 70 parts per billion or higher, while health and environmental groups want it as low as 60 parts per billion. Both sides say that every notch on that scale can make a big difference.

"There are significant health benefits as the standard is tightened," Mr. Billings said.

An analysis in the E.P.A.'s draft proposal found that an ozone standard of 70 parts per billion would prevent 325,000 cases of childhood asthma and 1,440 premature deaths. A standard of 65 parts per billion would prevent about a million cases of asthma and 4,300 deaths. And a standard of 60 parts per billion would prevent 1.8 million asthma attacks and 7,900 premature deaths.

But each notch ratchets up the cost to industry as well. A tighter smog standard would require the owners of factories and power plants to install chemical scrubbers and other technology on their smokestacks to remove the chemicals. Scrubbers can cost tens of millions of dollars apiece, and industry groups say that with each degree the standard is tightened, their costs will soar.

"Cutting 90 percent of pollution is one thing, but cutting 95 percent can be double the cost of getting to 90," said Howard J. Feldman, the director of regulatory affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil and gas companies.

Ross Eisenberg, a vice president at the manufacturers association, said that even a change of two parts per billion in the standard could make a difference. "At a standard of 68, there are 40 percent more counties in America that would be in noncompliance than there are with a standard of 70," he said. "A lot of counties would be dealing with this for the first time."

A standard of 65 parts per billion, Mr. Eisenberg said, could require the use of pollution control technology that does not exist yet. "That's when you have to start shutting things down," he said.


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