5

Concluding Observations

The issue of tropospheric ozone pollution keeps getting more complicated and difficult, as recent developments attest.

The hot and dry summer of 1999 caused elevated ozone concentrations in many areas in the United States and the potential for adverse health effects to people living in those areas. The new 8-hour ozone standards will be harder to meet than those they replaced. Further, confusion exists because of the action by a U.S. Court of Appeals that remanded those standards for reconsideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the same time, the ability to impose even more-stringent controls on ozone precursors is running into stiff resistance; further controls are likely to impose greater economic and lifestyle burdens on residents of the United States. Elsewhere in North America, Mexico City remains subject to concentrations of ozone above target levels most days of the year, and most Canadians in urban areas live where ozone may reach unacceptable concentrations during summer months.

The NARSTO assessment document, read as a whole, conveys a pessimistic and—as things now stand—a well-founded message about the ability of the United States to meet the 1-hr ozone standard. First, the document presents little prospect of meeting ozone management goals through a continuation of current policies, although existing ozone-precursor control strategies have been successful in reducing ambient ozone substantially below what they would have been without regulation. Second, it offers no grounds for expecting that a system can be devised to optimize the control of volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen in a way that leads to greater ozone decreases and lower cost. In the face of these conclusions, it provides no indication that research would achieve the knowledge on which a nondisruptive control system could be devised to meet ozone management goals.

This is not to say that, in the United States at least, incremental steps cannot make a difference. As the committee suggests in Chapter 4, there are numerous opportunities related to ozone management that, if met, could improve compliance, add understanding that would increase the effectiveness and efficiency of control systems though improved design, and resolve—or at least define—remaining uncertainties. After these steps are taken, the true boundaries of the possible tradeoffs between ozone concentrations and economic and lifestyle costs should become clear. These boundaries are likely, of course, to differ among Canada, the United States, and Mexico, as well as among regions within each of the countries.



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OCR for page 21
REVIEW OF THE NARSTO DRAFT REPORT: AN ASSESSMENT OF TROPOSPHERIC OZONE POLLUTION–A NORTH AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE 5 Concluding Observations The issue of tropospheric ozone pollution keeps getting more complicated and difficult, as recent developments attest. The hot and dry summer of 1999 caused elevated ozone concentrations in many areas in the United States and the potential for adverse health effects to people living in those areas. The new 8-hour ozone standards will be harder to meet than those they replaced. Further, confusion exists because of the action by a U.S. Court of Appeals that remanded those standards for reconsideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the same time, the ability to impose even more-stringent controls on ozone precursors is running into stiff resistance; further controls are likely to impose greater economic and lifestyle burdens on residents of the United States. Elsewhere in North America, Mexico City remains subject to concentrations of ozone above target levels most days of the year, and most Canadians in urban areas live where ozone may reach unacceptable concentrations during summer months. The NARSTO assessment document, read as a whole, conveys a pessimistic and—as things now stand—a well-founded message about the ability of the United States to meet the 1-hr ozone standard. First, the document presents little prospect of meeting ozone management goals through a continuation of current policies, although existing ozone-precursor control strategies have been successful in reducing ambient ozone substantially below what they would have been without regulation. Second, it offers no grounds for expecting that a system can be devised to optimize the control of volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen in a way that leads to greater ozone decreases and lower cost. In the face of these conclusions, it provides no indication that research would achieve the knowledge on which a nondisruptive control system could be devised to meet ozone management goals. This is not to say that, in the United States at least, incremental steps cannot make a difference. As the committee suggests in Chapter 4, there are numerous opportunities related to ozone management that, if met, could improve compliance, add understanding that would increase the effectiveness and efficiency of control systems though improved design, and resolve—or at least define—remaining uncertainties. After these steps are taken, the true boundaries of the possible tradeoffs between ozone concentrations and economic and lifestyle costs should become clear. These boundaries are likely, of course, to differ among Canada, the United States, and Mexico, as well as among regions within each of the countries.

OCR for page 21
REVIEW OF THE NARSTO DRAFT REPORT: AN ASSESSMENT OF TROPOSPHERIC OZONE POLLUTION–A NORTH AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE This conclusion leads to a set of broader messages for NARSTO. First, it emphasizes the necessity to set research and monitoring priorities carefully. The focus must be on those issues whose resolution will advance the policy mission for which NARSTO was established. Second, the limits of incrementalism, with regard to ozone control at the concentrations now being sought in the United States, at least, suggest the importance of the search for new approaches to supplement or supplant those now failing to achieve their goals. Finally, NARSTO has a critical role to play in the possible future policy debate. Historically in the United States, ozone policy has been predicated on meeting ozone concentrations that would assure no more than negligible risk to people anywhere in the country, if not immediately, then in the foreseeable future. The unstated premise was that such concentrations could be achieved at costs the public was willing to bear. Given recent developments, this premise is being called into question. As the leading scientific research organization on ozone, it is incumbent upon NARSTO to provide a realistic picture of what might be achieved, given reasonable expectations of the resources to be applied and the personal choices to be restricted. By setting the boundaries of the reasonably possible, NARSTO will inform the debate and provide the scientific basis on which health goals and resource constraints can be jointly accommodated. These are challenging missions. Requirements to accomplish them should be at the forefront as NARSTO reflects on its performance, on the choices it has made with respect to past research priorities, and on the resources it can reasonably expect to command.