HOUSTON - Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-188 to adopt H.R. 806, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land). Dubbed the “Smoggy Skies Act,” the measure would permanently weaken the Clean Air Act, block updated ozone pollution limits for years, and impose sweeping changes to future standards for smog-forming ozone and five other major air pollutants.
Responding to the latest scientific evidence, in 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightened acceptable ambient levels of ozone, the pollutant that can trigger headaches, nausea, asthma attacks and in the worst cases, premature death. Today’s legislation would delay until 2026 the new ozone limits of 70 parts per billion and delay other standards to better protect public health from air pollution.
“Every Texan should be able to breathe air that doesn’t make them sick, but today Congress said that was too much to ask," said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. "Rather than protect their constituents from smog-induced asthma attacks and emergency room visits, a majority voted to protect the pocketbooks and the agenda of big polluters. Under this bill, some Texans would continue to breathe unhealthy air for another 10 years, and that’s unacceptable. We call on the Senate to reject this dangerous legislation to help ensure cleaner, healthier air for our kids.”
Despite progress in reducing smog pollution, Houston is still not in attainment with the Clean Air Act, and the number of smoggy days has increased in the least two years, going from 101 in 2015 to 107 in 2016.
"By sponsoring H.R. 806 - meant to delay the implementation of the ozone rule - Rep. Pete Olson has essentially told the 144,776 children and 382,312 adults in the Houston region that have asthma that their health and well-being don't matter," said Bakeyah Nelson, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston. "This vote also reflects a disregard for Houston area school districts and businesses that pay the cost when children miss school and people miss work due to health issues aggravated by smog. Our residents deserve better. Elected officials should not be aggressively working to harm the health of our communities."
A March study by the city of Houston, Rice University and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) this spring found that preventable asthma attacks among schoolchildren cost millions in health care dollars.
"The last thing our parents need to worry about is their kids missing school because of an asthma attack," said Diana Davila, District VIII School Board Representative for the Houston Independent School District. "We need to acknowledge we still have a serious air pollution problem in Houston and deal with it, not pass laws to weaken the Clean Air Act."