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KERA's news coverage of environmental issues in North Texas, the state and beyond.

EPA Holding Public Hearing On Smog In Arlington

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing in Arlington on proposed updates to the national air quality standards for smog.

Texas is home to several counties with the worst ozone pollution in the nation.

The EPA proposal would update the national smog standards from their current level of 75 parts per billion to 65 to 70 parts per billion. 

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News
Mom Alison Beckwith and her two kids, Madeline (left) and Alex at the EPA hearing on smog reduction in Arlington.

Alison Davis, with EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards says reducing ozone will have a significant positive impact on health. 

“From reducing as many as 4,300 premature deaths, reducing as many as 9,600 asthma attacks in children and up to a million days when children miss school because of ozone related effects.”

Smog, which is linked to asthma and other heart and lung diseases, is especially harmful to children and seniors. According to the American Lung Association, the current standard puts as many as 186 million American at riskof breathing unhealthy levels of smog. 

Susan Pacheco, a Houston-based pediatrician specializing in allergen and immunology, came to testify at the hearing. 

“We know the current standards are not enough to protect us," she says. "There’s clear evidence in the medical literature that supports that."

One of Pacheco's patients, Alison Beckwith came to Arlington City Hall from Keller to ask the EPA to strengthen ozone standards. Her son, Alexander, is 11 years old and has asthma. 

“And on days when the ozone is not as good it really impacts his ability to breathe well and so we have to limit how much he can go outside and how much he can go outside,” Beckwith says.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and industries that might have to lower emissions say stricter standards aren’t necessary.

Steve Everley, with the oil and gas industry group Energy in Depth, argues the potential job loss that could come with stricter standards outweighs environmental and health benefits.

“There is a point of diminishing returns with any sort of regulator imposition," he says. "We all know that certain regulations are going to have a cost on the economy, but they end up getting justified because you say well they also deliver these health benefits or these environmental benefits.”

The EPA will accept written comments on the proposed standards until March 17, 2015. The agency will issue a final rule by Oct. 1, 2015. 

More information on the proposal and instructions for submitting written comments:

Video: Smog standards

The EPA administrator explains proposed smog standards.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.