Stricter Ozone Standards Could Pose Challenges for Scientific Measurements and Models

With the United States Environmental Protection Agency proposing to lower the primary ozone standard from 75 ppb (parts per billion) to 70 or 65 ppb, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have created a commentary on how the new standard could make research more difficult for air quality managers at both local and state levels. The problem with measuring ozone pollution is that there are many sources that contribute to the pollution, such as vehicle emissions and pollution blown in from across oceans or from other areas of the country. “It’s not easy,” Owen Cooper, lead researcher of the commentary Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, said of measuring the ozone. “But we do know how to figure out where the ozone comes from. This source information is exactly what air quality managers will need to know when the margin for allowable locally produced ozone shrinks.” In addition, the commentary states that measurements would need to be conducted from a variety of other instruments (balloons and aircrafts, for example) in order to improvement a higher level or accuracy. Once that is accomplished, models can be made to replicate the observed ozone levels. “The ozone baseline is rising, especially in high-elevation regions of the western U.S. that are more strongly influenced by high ozone coming from upwind sources or from the stratosphere. Lowering the federal ozone standard to protect public health will reduce the wiggle room for air quality managers. We point out that measurements and science will be crucial to successfully navigating the new regulatory landscape,” said Cooper said. The EPA is expected to make a decision on the new proposed ozone standards in November 2015.

Environmental Protection News, 9 June 2015 ; ;