The EPA Might Actually Listen To People At Today's Hearing On Ozone Levels

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The Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of deciding exactly how low it is going to decrease the national smog pollution limit, otherwise known as ozone, and clean-air advocates want you to do your part to help ensure a cleaner, healthier Houston.

All day today, the EPA is hosting a public comment hearing inside the Hobby Hilton at 8181 Airport Boulevard. Anyone who shows up before 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to sign up and speak out.

Today's event is only one of three such public hearing that the EPA will hold across the country before it makes its decision and sets the new ozone standard. The other two are in Virginia and California.

"This is a real opportunity for us to move toward clean air in Houston and in Texas," says Eva Hernandez of the Sierra Club. "This hearing is a very big deal. The EPA needs to hear from the public and as long as their voices are heard, we can really push the EPA."

In past years, the EPA has held similar hearings concerning ozone limits in Houston, but clean-air advocates say the EPA under the Obama administration is far more receptive to comments than it was under the Bush reign.

"Before, the standard that the EPA picked was a forgone conclusion," says Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. "But now, we really believe that they're here to listen and have not yet decided which number to go with, so we can actually have some pretty good input this time."

Tejada says he is encouraged by what members of his staff heard at a recent environmental justice conference in New Orleans.

"We were kind of stunned to see that EPA staff feel energized that they can do their job now," says Tejada, "and they said that they want to be forced to do it. They said for people to keep complaining and putting the pressure on them, because they feel if they are going to change, now is the time to force them to change. It's really refreshing."

People can go down to the Hilton anytime before 7:30 p.m. and speak. There will be a rally with state Senator Rodney Ellis at 7 p.m., just before the Democrat from Houston addresses the EPA , says Hernandez.

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