e=”eddie Albert green acres” src=”/files/u2/eddie albert299.jpg” alt=”eddie Albert green acres” width=”299″ height=”215″ align=”right” hspace=”5″ />‘Gimme that countryside…’ Rural wannabe O.W. Douglas played by Eddie Albert “Fresh air!” shouted Oliver Wendell Douglas, the stuffed shirt who bullied his diamond dripping wife to leave New York City for “farm living” in television’s Green Acres. As many rural residents can attest, Mr. Douglas should emigrate with caution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards on air quality, 43 rural counties from Gila, Arizona, to Litchfield, Connecticut showed excessive levels of ozone. (See full list below.) Polluted country air poses hazards to people, animals, and even crops. Ozone (O3) is produced when sunlight interacts with emissions from cars and trucks, factories, and power plants. It causes asthma, damages the lungs of animals (human and otherwise), and stunts the growth of plants. Last week the EPA revised its air quality standards from 0.08 ozone parts per million to 0.075 ppm. EPA advisors and the American Lung Association had recommended an even more stringent standard of 0.06 0.07 ppm. Dr. John M. Balbus, health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, was one of many who criticized the agency’s weaker change. “The EPA’s own risk estimates show that between 75 and 70, there will be hundreds more deaths and thousands more visits to emergency rooms, and hundreds of thousands of more lost school days,” Balbus told the New York Times. On the other hand, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma complained that the new ozone regulations were too harsh and could damage his state’s economy; counties in noncompliance might risk losing federal highway money or scare off potential business investors. “I am proud of the tremendous progress Oklahoma has made in cleaning up its air. Currently, not a single county in Oklahoma is in violation of the ozone standards,” Sen. Inhofe said. But under the 0.075 standard, nine of Oklahoma counties fail to meet the ozone requirements. Four of them are rural.
Counties in pink exceeded the EPA’s new ozone standards: 0.075 parts per million Source: Environmental Protection Agency
In Indiana, too, some business leaders objected to EPA’s revision. From the Indianapolis Star: “It’s too early to know the new standard’s impact on the state’s industries and future economic development, said Patrick Bennett, the Indiana Manufacturers Association’s vice president of environment, energy and infrastructure. But he said the tougher standard could drive manufacturers toward rural areas and away from urban areas that don’t meet the new health based federal rule. ‘They’ll shift production to an area where attainment is not an issue either in areas in Indiana that are in attainment or another state where attainment is not an issue,’ Bennett said.” But attainment is “an issue” everywhere. Rural communities aren’t exempt from the standards. Rural residents aren’t immune from asthma; they want clean air as much as anyone. Leaves of potato plant damaged by ozone exposure Photo: Gerald Holmes, via Tree Wizard Maybe more so since ozone appears to be an ever greater hazard for plants than for people. According to a recent study at MIT, if ozone levels continue rising at the current rate, “by 2100 the global value of crop production will fall by 10 to 12 percent.” A less publicized dimension of the latest EPA decision was its modification of secondary ozone standards those that impact “public welfare,” that is to say, the environment. EPA advisors had put forth a new form of ozone measurement (W126) “designed specifically to protect sensitive plants from damage caused by repeated ozone exposure throughout the growing season.” The Washington Post reported Friday that the Bush administration overruled this recommendation at the last minute, forcing EPA to revert to less stringent monitoring of ozone levels as they affect wildlife, parks, and cropland. Watch out, Oliver Wendell Douglas! Non metro counties clearly can be ozone hazardous, too. Some, like Door County, Wisconsin a popular destination for summer tourists are located downwind of power plants in other states and even across national borders. Others, like Calaveras County, California, are trapped geographically, so that emissions from gas and diesel engines stagnate. In Nevada County, California, periodic wildfires have created high levels of ozone. There’s also evidence that interstate highway traffic, which tends to increase in rural regions during the ozone prone summer months, may be a factor. To check on the air quality and pollution sources in your county, insert your zip code in this pollution Scorecard, currently set with the data for Benzie County, Michigan. It’s one of the 45 non metro counties that, based on 2004 2006 monitors, failed to meet the new standard of 0.075 parts per million. Here’s the full list:
Baldwin County, Alabama 78 Gila County, Arizona 80 Amador County, California 84 Calaveras County, CA 93 Inyo County, CA 82 Mariposa County, CA 86 Nevada County, CA 96 Tehama County, CA 83 Tuolumne County, CA 78 Litchfield County, Connecticut 87 Sussex County, Deleware 82 Perry County, Indiana 81 St. James Parish, Louisiana 76 Hancock County, Maine 81 Kent County, Maryland 81 Dukes County, Massachusetts 82 Allegan County, Michigan 88 Benzie County, MI 80 Lenawee County, MI 76 Mason County, MI 77 Schoolcraft County, MI 78 Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri 77 Chautauqua County, New York 86 Essex County, NY 76 Graham County, North Carolina 78 Granville County, NC 80 Lincoln County, NC 79 Rowan County, NC 85 Ashtabula County, Ohio 86 Clinton County, OH 80 Knox County, OH 76 Cherokee County, Oklahoma 76 Kay County, OK 79 Mayes County, OK 79 Ottawa County, OK 78
Clearfield County, Pennsylvania 77 Greene County, PA 79 Tioga County, PA 77 Meigs County, Tennessee 79 Sevier County, TN 80 Harrison County, Texas 79 Hood County, TX 84 Madison County, Virginia 77 Door County, Wisconsin 86 Manitowoc County, WI 82 Note: The EPA only monitored only about 20% of US counties for ozone levels (639 counties urban and rural combined during this period). Of those, 398 violated the new 0.075