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North American Research Strategy for Tropospheric Ozone

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Activities under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)

The NSTC's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) identifiedground-level ozone as an initiative in 1995. A signing ceremony for thecharter of the North American Research Strategy for Tropospheric Ozone(NARSTO) was held at the White House in February of that year. The establishmentof NARSTO is a direct response to the identification by the National ResearchCouncil (NRC) of the need for a better fundamental understanding of urbanand regional ozone and its call for a coordinated national program.

NARSTO is a unique public/private partnership whose membership spansgovernment, industry, the utilities, and academia throughout North America,including Mexico and Canada. Its primary mission is to coordinate and enhancepolicy-relevant scientific research and assessment of tropospheric ozonebehavior, with the central goal of providing the information needed forworkable, efficient, and effective strategies and policies for local andregional ozone management. NARSTO provides cross-organization planningto set a prioritized research agenda and determine the most effective strategyfor scientific investigation, coordinates member investments where theyvoluntarily take responsibility for all needed research activity, and conductsperiodic assessments of scientific advances and progress toward fulfillingits goal. NARSTO sponsored field campaigns have already been completedint eh summers of both 1995 and 1996 by the Southern Oxidants Study. NARSTO-NorthEast (NE), and NARSTO-NE coordinating with NARSTO-Canada East.

In addition to coordinating funding for field research, NARSTO is currentlypreparing a State-of-Science Assessment that will comprehensively reviewadvances in the chemical, physical, and meteorological science of troposphericozone. Throughout 1997, seventeen critical review papers will be preparedby experts in the relevant research areas. These will be presented at aNARSTO Science Symposium to be held in November 1997 and will also appearin a special issue of an air quality scientific journal. The AssessmentReport, which will synthesize the review papers, is scheduled for completionby the end of December 1998. It will address how recent scientific progresscan be used to develop improved options for ozone management.

U. S. Federal agencies participating in NARSTO include the Departmentsof Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration),Energy (Office of Energy Research), the Interior, and Transportation, aswell as independent agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency,the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

These agencies combine efforts with those of the air quality departmentsof several State governments, as well as private companies, to performcooperative research and analysis of pertinent facets of the ozone managementissue. Private sector participants include over 30 utilities, automotive,chemical, and other companies. In addition, numerous universities and privatesector research organizations are NARSTO partners.

Background: Tropospheric Ozone

Although North American air quality has substantially improved overthe last two decades, ozone continues to be one of the most pervasive problemsamong the six major pollutants for which National Ambient Air Quality Standardshave been set. Tropospheric ozone has detrimental impacts on human healthas well as on the productivity of both managed and natural vegetation.It also serves as an important mediator for the chemical transformationsof a variety of other pollutants.

Despite intensive regulatory activity over the past 20 years, effortsto control urban and regional ozone concentration levels have had onlymixed success. Multiple factors make ozone management an exceedingly complextask and have contributed to the slow progress in reducing the problem.These factors include uncertainties in characterizing the influences oflocal meteorological conditions, the complex reaction chemistry responsiblefor ozone formation, poor understanding of the role of losses due to depositionprocesses, and our present inability to characterize anthropogenic emissionsof ozone precursors (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) inan acceptable manner. Natural emissions of ozone precursors are also important,but are extremely difficult to quantify. Finally, ozone and its precursorscan be transported over long distances. This strongly limits the efficacyof local emission-controls in many regions because of the potential forcontributions from upwind sources.

A 1991 NRC report entitled Rethinking the Ozone Issue in Regionaland Urban Air Pollution reviewed the status of ozone management andconcluded that "progress toward reducing ozone concentrations has beenseverely hampered by the lack of a coordinated national program directedat elucidating the chemical, physical, and meteorological processes thatcontrol ozone formation and concentration."

The NSTC is a cabinet-level council established by President Clintonin November 1993. It is the principal means for coordinating science andtechnology across the Federal government. The science-based, policy-relevantobjectives of NARSTO and the cooperative government/industry/academia approachto regional ozone research embody the key spirit of what the NSTC and CENRseek to foster.

For additional information contact:

Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
(202) 456-6020
FAX (202) 456-6019
January 1997

Officeof Science and Technology Policy
1600 Pennsylvania Ave,N.W
Washington, DC 20502

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