Ozone is a problem that affects all of us wherever we live. There are numerous laws and international treadies that are designed to reduce the amount of ozone that is introduced into the atmosphere. The purpose of this is to protect our environment and hopefully limit the amount of cancer producing rays that reach the earth and potentially affect many individuals. In fact, we are becoming a gradually warmer universe and it is believed by many that ozone reduction policies are in our best interest in terms of reversing this dangerous trend.

Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, the federal government has been reluctant to aggressively pursue ozone related issues. Granted, the federal government has a tremendous amount on its plate. But, this issue appears to be significant and worth federal resources so that wherever we live, we can be more healthy.

Along these lines, it must be regarded as good news that the Environmental Protection Agency, otherwise known as the EPA, announced that it has settled a lawsuit brought by various environmental organizations concerning the EPA's alleged failure to enforce ozone standards which were established in 1997. Non- compliance in many states has been long apparent, as was the fact that the government was doing little about it. Now, the EPA appears to be willing to enforce our national environmental laws concerning ozone protection.

In this agreement, the EPA will determine which parts of the country do not satisfy the 1997 established ozone standards. A list of non-complying regions shall be completed by April 2004. When the EPA identifies areas as not meeting the ozone standards, it will then be up to the individual states to effectively reduce pollution so as to come in compliance. Of course, the primary source of the pollution are the automobile emissions that produce smog as well as various industrial emissions.

In 1997, the EPA set forth more stringent ozone standards. EPA had been directed to determine by July 2000 which areas of the country did not satisfy the more stringent standards. The lawsuit filed by the various environmental organizations followed the failure of the EPA to meet this July 2000 deadline.

The actual effect that ozone has on us is still the subject of scientific debate. While ozone is believed to contribute to asthma and other respiratory diseases, studies recently conducted suggest that ozone levels that many people in this country encounter everyday are high enough to represent significant health effects. Some public health organizations have opined that the more protective standards will prevent many illnesses in this country every year. In every community.

The consent decree has a section entitled "EPA obligations." The first obligation provides that by April 15, 2004 the EPA will begin the process of formally designating areas that fail to meet ozone requirements. This process requires publication of the list in an official federal document called the Federal Register. Interestingly, the decree requires that the EPA "not take any step… to delay or otherwise interfere with publication" of the proposed list in the Federal Register. We have to wonder why it is that the environmental groups and the other health organizations felt it necessary to include this kind of language in a settlement agreement with the government. Did the EPA previously "delay" or "interfere" with enforcement of federal ozone requirements?

Earth Justice, Clean Air Task Force, The American Lung Association, The Sierra Club, The Clean Air Counsel and other organizations participated in this lawsuit.

The Bush administration has been criticized concerning what has been perceived by many as an overly tolerant attitude concerning environmental releases by industry. Hopefully, this settlement suggests that things might be changing. We all breathe the same air, whether we live in the North, South or Center of the Country, and whether we are democrats, republicans, or others. Who can really be against clean air?

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