Local headlines are blaring that Denver and the northern Front Range is experiencing critical summer ozone levels, risking a classification of “severe violator” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A historical perspective on local ozone tells a different story. Denver used to exceed what the EPA calls 8-hour average concentration ozone readings of 300 parts per billion (ppb) on the worst days of the brown cloud era of 50 years ago.
Today, through proper industrial regulations and vehicle emissions testing, summer air quality with respect to ozone has admirably lowered to 8-hour averages of near 80 ppb.
These ozone values are on a slight uptick in the last few years, partially due to wildfire smoke, but do they really warrant proposed draconian measures such as requiring summer E15 gasoline (15% ethanol) costing 40-50 cents more per gallon?
The real culprit with over-the-top ozone alarmism is the politically-charged EPA and its exceptionally strict 8-hour ozone health standard of 70 ppb.
Primarily under Democratic administrations, the EPA keeps lowering its ozone public health standard, initially 120 ppb in 1979 (1-hour), then progressively dropping to 8-hour averages of 80 ppb in 1997, 75 ppb in 2008 and the present-day 70 ppb adopted in 2015. Does it not remind one of Faucism and ever-changing COVID standards?
Ozone at 70 ppb has potential harm only to a very small, sensitive portion of the population and should not be used to trigger Ozone Action Alert Days that are bombarded on the general public by the media.
Are we to say that it’s OK to have an ozone average at 69 ppb, but with an infinitesimally small increase of one part per billion, the northern Front Range becomes an ozone violator according to the EPA?
This makes no sense in light of the 300 ppb ozone of yesteryear and is only driven by climate change hysteria. And we all know the environmental left is out to get the fossil fuel industry by any parameter possible, including ozone alarmism.
Retired meteorologist Dave Larison is a Longmont resident who first worked for the National Weather Service in Denver in 1970.
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