Maine is the oldest state in the nation and has one of the highest rates of asthma, so when the Trump administration takes steps that put in peril senior citizens and those with lung problems, Mainers have to push back.

With that in mind, we’re glad to see Maine, through Attorney General Janet Mills, join a lawsuit, along with 14 other states and the District of Columbia, against the Environmental Protection Agency and its administrator, Scott Pruitt, for slowing down an initiative that would help Mainers breathe easier.

Second District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, too, recently acted in defense of clean air, bucking his party and joining Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, in a futile attempt to force stricter ozone standards.

There’s a reason this issue reaches across party lines. Exhaust from coal-fired power plants in the South and Midwest, and from vehicles in the crowded D.C.-to-Boston corridor, puts heavy amounts of ozone into the air, and that ozone doesn’t care if the lungs it attacks are in Democrats, Republicans, or independents.

In Maine, more than 24,000 children and 120,000 adults have asthma, and another 87,000 adults have COPD. Every time the ozone in the atmosphere spikes, they risk an emergency room visit, hospitalization, even death.

The EPA, however, wants to delay by a year identifying the places in the country most affected by unhealthy levels of ozone, a designation that would then force those areas to reduce pollution.


In addition, the bill passed in the House over Poliquin’s objection would delay the implementation of tougher ozone standards designed under the Obama-era EPA, back when the agency cared about things like clean air. The standard, now at 75 parts per billion, was set to lower to 70 ppb; if the Senate approves, that wouldn’t change until 2025. Even that is not low enough — 72 ppb is harmful even to healthy people, and research backs a level as low as 60 ppb.

Critics, like Pruitt, argue that clean air measures hurt businesses. Yet an EPA study of clean air standards put in place since 1990 say they cost the economy $65 billion, but saved almost $2 trillion in health care costs. In that time, the stricter standards will prevent more than 230,000 early deaths.

And a recent nationwide study of 60 million Medicare recipients linked long-term exposure to ozone to an increased risk of death, and found that lowering standards by 1 ppb would save 1,900 lives a year.

California is reacting to the EPA’s anti-breathing actions by going at it alone — officials have pledged to hit the 70-ppb standard regardless of federal rules.

That isn’t an option for Maine. Our air, particularly bad in the southern part of the state and along the coast, is dirtied from afar. That can only change significantly if the polluters along the jetstream are forced to lower their emissions.

Otherwise, we’ll keep having days when for thousands of Mainers going outside could mean a trip to the hospital.

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