Latinos could suffer from current smog levels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should move forward with tougher standards it has developed for ozone and toxic emissions to protect the health of Latinos, environmental and Latino groups said today.

By not toughening standards for ozone levels and toxic emissions from power plants, Latinos would be at risk for increased disease and death because they are disproportionately more likely to live near polluted areas, according to a report released by five groups today.

“Protecting our children and communities from smog and air toxics must be taken seriously. With the health of so many at risk, we can no longer ignore the science,” the report notes. “The EPA must strengthen the smog standard and set mercury and air toxics standards to the levels recommended by the agency’s science advisors.”

The report was written by the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for American Progress and the National Wildlife Federation, and released with the National Hispanic Medical Association. It comes on the heels of  President Barack Obama’s announcement earlier this month that he would delay a rule on tougher ozone standards.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had said new ozone standards would have cost the nation as many as 7.3 million jobs by 2020.

The group’s report points to eight states that have 75 percent of the nation’s Hispanic population, the two largest being California and Texas. Thirty-eight percent of Texas’ 25.1 million people and 38 percent of California’s 37.3 million people are of Latino or Hispanic origin, according to 2010 census data.

“Leaving the current standard in place — the policy of choice of large, polluting industries — means more lives lost and more asthma attacks, suffering that Latinos will greatly bear,” the report says.

House Republicans have pushed to delay or block a host of EPA rules. Last week a House subpanel approved bills to delay and soften rules reducing emissions from cement plants and industrial boilers. Those bills are headed for a full House energy committee markup tomorrow.

Some Republicans such as Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, have called for delaying or reversing an upcoming rule limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides from power plants, saying the rule could cause electricity service disruptions for Texans. EPA has rejected the notion, saying utilities can use multiple solutions that already exist to meet the new standards and they don’t need to comply until 14 months after the standards kick in.