Proposal for air pollution research paper: Problem Statement

Proposal for air pollution research paper:
Problem Statement
Ground level ozone is a major cause of smog in urban areas. In 2010 the EPA proposed strengthening their
NAAQS standards. President Obama did not accept the proposal.
The proposal was outlined in the following link:
At the heart of air pollution regulation is the concept that air pollution creates a degree of harm. This harm
may be to health, property, natural stock of air, natural stock of the biosphere etc. Inherent in the urge to
regulate is the idea that the reduced harm is worth the various forms of cost needed to achieve the regulatory
goals. These costs may be in the form of financial investment, exit from certain areas of endeavor,
technological investment – to name only a few.
Quantification of the pollution is itself a challenge – how much is produced – where does it go in the
atmosphere – how does the pollution behave once released (does it disappear, concentrate, transform,
interact, etc.). Even more challenging is how to quantify the impact of the pollution on people, planet, and
environment – now and in the future. Some impacts can appear to be quite ephemeral and even esoteric.
One of the factors to consider with ground level Ozone regulation is that Ozone is seldom the directly emitted
pollutant. Rather NOx and SOx as well as VOCs interact with each other, elements in the atmosphere, and
sunlight to produce O3. This paper will look at whether direct regulation of Ozone will have the intended
effect- or whether going after predecessor sources would be more effective.
Often the costs are very concrete and immediate. This can be increased tax, loss of jobs, reduced profit etc. (of
course – with proper thinking regulation can be sometimes demonstrated to improve all of these).
This balancing act – costs v. benefits is complicated by the many dimensions that costs and benefits have. To
Complications associated with quantifying cost:
1) Cost is a function of the state of technology (RACT)
2) Cost falls on different economic classes differently. So for instance a 1 dollar increase in fuel cost
is nothing for a wealthy person – and life changing for a poor person
3) Cost occurs through time – and it is difficult to compare the timing of cost and benefit.
4) Ozone occurs naturally – so separating out anthropogenic ozone production v. man made is
difficult. This IS important however because it speaks to how effective any regulation CAN be
Complications associated with quantifying benefits
1) Benefits are often statistical and harm to make real
2) Benefits often take a long time to emerge (i.e. ozone hole repair)
3) A process may cause both good and bad outcomes – so CF lights reduce green house gas but
increase ambient mercury
The approach will be to examine regulation of one pollutant – namely Ozone. choose a particular type of
pollutant – perhaps arsenic or ozone. The research will:
1) Examine where and why it is produced
2) Examine what is required to meet the new regulatory proposal – see link
3) If possible look at Europe and Canada
4) Assess via the literature the quantification of harm
5) Determine if there is a threshold level – below which harm is essentially zero.
6) Then examine the costs to the regulation – investment – jobs – etc.
7) While it may not be possible to avoid a head to head – winner /loser outcome I will look for ways to
achieve goals that avoid pure conflict.
It is hoped that we can substitute science for rhetoric as a result of this research. An additional desired
outcome would be an articulation of the tradeoff that is compelling. While it is too much to hope for – I do
look for a win win scenario that might be useful in the public policy sphere.
References the cause of arsenic an approach to
remediation (evaluation of a proposal).
Laboratory and Field Studies Directed toward Accelerating Arsenic Remediation at a Major US Superfund Site
in New Jersey
Karen Wovkulich