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Fischer Won't Sign Letter Supporting Stricter Smog Standards

Mill Creek

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has declined to join other mayors around the country in signing a letter to President Obama supporting stricter national standards for smog.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, or smog. The agency is under a court order to update the standards, which haven’t been changed since 2008, but industry groups have been lobbying for a less stringent final version of the rule.

The current standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb), and the EPA is considering changing it to anywhere between 65 and 70 ppb.

The letter is being circulated by the Sierra Club, and asks Obama to finalize the “strongest possible” ozone standard to protect public health. More than 25 mayors have signed on so far, but Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter said the Louisville mayor won’t be one of them.

“We have our own sustainability plan, Sustain Louisville, we have a focus on energy and environment and energy efficiency, expanding our tree canopy, reducing our urban heat island,” he said. “So those are the programs we focus on, the plan we’ve been working on for four years now.

"So even though we’re not signing on this letter, we are doing our own efforts around clean air, clean water and reducing waste going into the landfill.”

But there’s a difference between a voluntary sustainability plan and mandatory federal regulations.

Poynter said the mayor’s office wouldn’t take a position for or against stricter air pollution standards, and referred detailed questions to the Air Pollution Control District.

APCD spokesman Tom Nord reiterated the city’s commitment to clean air.

“We do have the occasional air quality alert and we do exceed the standard sometimes, but compared to where we were 10, 20, 30 years ago, the air is cleaner,” he said.

Nord said the city is in compliance with the current ozone standard, but it will be a challenge to further cut ozone pollution, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate. But “there’s never been a challenge that we couldn’t meet,” he said.

Local Sierra Club organizer Tom Pearce said he was appreciative of the Fischer administration’s other sustainability efforts. But he said he was disappointed the mayor wouldn’t go on the record to support air pollution standards.

“Smog robs thousands of Americans with asthma and other respiratory illnesses of quality of life,” Pearce said. “It sends thousands of children to the emergency room each year. This rule is very important to clean up smog.”

The updated smog standards are expected to be released in October.

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Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.