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The Clean Air Act 2005 Severe Ozone Nonattainment Deadline: A Prime Opportunity to Realize the Goals of the Clean Air Act

February 2005

Citation: ELR 10115

Author: Ami M. Grace

I. Introduction

The Clean Air Act (CAA) has been appropriately heralded as one of the greatest environmental laws ever established. The intractable problem of ozone pollution, however, continues to affect nearly one-half of all Americans. Critics of recent clean air programs contend that a child in first grade today will continue to suffer health effects due to inadequately controlled ozone pollution throughout the child's high school career. As the 2005 statutory deadline for ozone severe nonattainment areas approaches, now is the opportune time to posit the fate of such deadlines as well as the fate of millions of Americans suffering from respiratory problems and other ailments due to elevated ozone levels.

In 1970, the U.S. Congress required all states to meet clean air standards for photochemical oxidants (commonly known as smog or ozone) by 1975. Thirty years, or a full generation later, many parts of the country continue to violate national ozone standards. While the six pollutants identified as criteria pollutants under the Act have decreased since 1970 and continued to decrease in the 1990s, ozone is the only criteria pollutant that did not decrease in the 1990s although most areas not meeting the ozone standard were required to attain the standard by 1999.

The cost we all pay for not meeting ozone standards is a dramatic increase in asthma, especially amongst children for whom asthma rates have doubled since 1985, decreases in respiratory functions, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. New studies show that ozone pollution actually causes asthma. Increases in the number of strokes amongst elderly populations and birth defects in newborns are also linked to unsafe levels of exposure to ozone pollution.

Ami Grace is a law student at the University of Maryland School of Law. While working as Grassroots Director of the Clean Water Network, a project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ms. Grace received her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2002. Ms. Grace is a 1997 graduate of the University of Michigan. She would like to thank Prof. Rena Steinzor for her assistance in preparing this Article.

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