Ads tout EPA ozone rule as crucial to poor, minority areas

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 4, 2015

Environmental and public interest groups today launched what they called a “major new advertising campaign” in large U.S. cities meant to draw attention to impacts of smog on minority communities.

The print ads tell readers that the majority of African-Americans live in areas with unsafe air. According to the ads, African-American children are also three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma.

“Smog pollution is disproportionately prevalent in low-income communities and communities of color,” Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, said on a conference call today with reporters.

The ads will appear in primarily African-American newspapers in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; and Dallas. Environmentalists also said there will be a major digital ad buy in D.C. as part of the campaign.

Along with the NAACP, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Moms Clean Air Force are sponsoring the campaign. The groups did not give a cost figure for it.

The ads come as the Obama administration is in the final stages of weighing a proposal to tighten the national standard for ozone. Ozone is a key component of smog that’s formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight.

U.S. EPA in November proposed to lower the current limit of 75 parts per billion, which was set in 2008, to between 65 and 70 ppb. Industry and business groups have waged an aggressive campaign against the proposal, arguing that it would impose burdensome compliance costs.

Industry and some local officials, including Democrats, have cautioned that a tighter standard would hurt minority communities by imposing economic burdens (Greenwire, Sept. 1).

EPA’s final standard is currently at the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The agency is poised to finalize a new standard by an Oct. 1 court-ordered deadline.

The environmentalists’ ads frame the upcoming decision on the standard as an environmental justice issue and urge the administration to “finalize the strongest possible protections to curb dangerous smog pollution that threatens our kids’ health.” The groups behind the campaign argue that a tighter standard would disproportionately benefit low-income and minority communities.

“The decision that’s made on these standards couldn’t be more important,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Lives are literally on the line.”