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Texas fights EPA’s anti-smog rules because people spend ’90 percent of their time indoors’

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The state agency responsible for protecting Texans against harmful chemicals said on Tuesday that it opposed federal efforts to lower smog levels because most people had air conditioners and spent “90 percent of their time indoors.”

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has avoided tightening regulations on Ozone, which is also known as smog. But after a unanimous panel of scientists recently agreed that the current standard of 75 parts per billion was unacceptable, the agency was expected to propose a 60 parts per billion standard by Dec. 1.

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But Republicans in Congress have vowed to oppose the EPA’s tougher standards. And on Monday, Texas joined the fight.

In an article published on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website, top state toxicologist Dr. Michael Honeycutt announced that the agency had concluded that “there will be little to no public health benefit from lowering the current standard.”

Honeycutt argued that the EPA’s own report showed that there could be a slight uptick in the rate of premature deaths for a short period of time because lowering nitrogen oxide could temporarily increase ozone levels. Regulation of nitrogen oxide is necessary to lower Ozone levels — and save many more lives — over the long term, according to the EPA.

Experts told the Texas Tribune that Honeycutt had taken the wrong lesson from the EPA’s study.

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t quit smoking,” Environmental Defense Fund senior health scientist Elena Craft explained. The EPA’s information about premature deaths “does not mean pollution is good for you. It means that you need to double down on the efforts to reduce emissions in the air,” she said.

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Honeycutt also argued that the trillions of dollars that lowering ozone levels was expected to cost nationwide would not be worth the effort because people spent most of their time indoors.

“Ozone is an outdoor air pollutant, because systems such as air conditioning remove it from indoor air. Since most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, we (and the people in the epidemiology studies used to justify lowering the standard) are rarely exposed to significant levels of ozone,” Honeycutt wrote, adding that people who were “near death” and more susceptible to ozone spent even more time indoors.

Texas Tech University assistant professor of atmospheric science Jennifer Vanos pointed out a flaw in Honeycutt’s logic.

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“By ignoring that and ignoring ozone and saying it’s okay, what we’re going to do is resulting in people spending even more time indoors, which we don’t want either,” she noted.


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Arizona Republican attacks Fauci and Birx for ‘undermining’ Trump with COVID-19 facts

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona set a record on Thursday, but one of the state's Republican representatives in Congress went to Fox News to urge the end of President Donald Trump's Coronavirus Task Force.

"I think that Birx and Fauci have gone well past their, their -- they've expired, their time of usefulness has expired," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said.

"What they do, is when the president comes out and makes a policy -- because he is the president, he is the policymaker. When they come and make these statements that they make, they engender panic and hysteria and undermine what the president's doing. That's what I think's critical," they argued.

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Texas conservatives lose their minds after GOP Gov. Greg Abbott mandates masks in public

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Texas' Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott finally acknowledged that there is a serious problem as COVID-19 takes down the state's population.

It was just a few months ago that municipalities were deciding for themselves when and if they would reopen. But Abbott shut it down, saying that his orders "overrule any local jurisdiction."

In April, "Abbott and the state’s other Republican leaders have blasted local officials in Dallas and Houston for what they called overzealous enforcement of COVID-19 regulations, first zeroing in on Democratically led Harris County’s decision to fine residents for not wearing face masks, a penalty Abbott banned in his April 27 reopening order," ProPublica reported. "The fights came to a head this month with the arrest of a Dallas hair salon owner who refused to shutter her business, an act of defiance that was supported by a right-wing group that launched a GoFundMe campaign a day before she reopened that raised $500,000 before it was disabled."

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Unemployment may not return to pre-COVID levels for a decade: Congressional Budget Office

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On Thursday, Politico reported that it could take a decade for unemployment levels to return to where they were before the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

"The economic outlook for the next 10 years has 'deteriorated significantly' since the independent budget agency issued its last complete set of projections in January, CBO noted," reported Caitlan Emma. "That illustrates the devastating effects of the pandemic and underscores the reality of a slower economic recovery than the 'rocket ship' rebound predicted by President Donald Trump."

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