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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 12:26pm

EPA To Toughen Smog Standards

Federal environmental officials are planning to issue a tougher new smog limit this summer.

The long-delayed rule could put several Georgia cities out of clean air compliance.

The EPA said it would strengthen the standard last August, but put it off while it dealt with the gulf oil spill. Then it was delayed again when election season came. Now it says it will announce the standard in July.

Rebecca Watts Hull with the Atlanta-based Mothers and Others for Clean Air is frustrated. She says the tougher limit is needed now to alert the public to respiratory health risks associated with ozone.

"We’ve had a number of days this smog season where days considered moderate or yellow that are ignored by the public, are actually code orange and parents should be paying attention," says Hull. "But because we haven’t readjusted that air quality index according to the latest science, we’re not able to communicate that directly to the public right now."

Hull says a stricter standard could put cities like Atlanta, Athens, Macon and Columbus out of compliance.

But some aren’t anxious for a stricter limit. Officials from power giant Southern Company say it would hurt the economy.

The EPA is considering lowering the limit from 85 parts per billion to as low as 60 parts.