Activities under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)

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

NARSTO is a unique public/private partnership whose membership spans government, industry, the utilities, and academia throughout North America, including Mexico and Canada. Its primary mission is to coordinate and enhance policy-relevant scientific research and assessment of tropospheric ozone behavior, with the central goal of providing the information needed for workable, efficient, and effective strategies and policies for local and regional ozone management. NARSTO provides cross-organization planning to set a prioritized research agenda and determine the most effective strategy for scientific investigation, coordinates member investments where they voluntarily take responsibility for all needed research activity, and conducts periodic assessments of scientific advances and progress toward fulfilling its goal. NARSTO sponsored field campaigns have already been completed int eh summers of both 1995 and 1996 by the Southern Oxidants Study. NARSTO-North East (NE), and NARSTO-NE coordinating with NARSTO-Canada East.

In addition to coordinating funding for field research, NARSTO is currently preparing a State-of-Science Assessment that will comprehensively review advances in the chemical, physical, and meteorological science of tropospheric ozone. Throughout 1997, seventeen critical review papers will be prepared by experts in the relevant research areas. These will be presented at a NARSTO Science Symposium to be held in November 1997 and will also appear in a special issue of an air quality scientific journal. The Assessment Report, which will synthesize the review papers, is scheduled for completion by the end of December 1998. It will address how recent scientific progress can be used to develop improved options for ozone management.

U. S. Federal agencies participating in NARSTO include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Energy (Office of Energy Research), the Interior, and Transportation, as well 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 departments of several State governments, as well as private companies, to perform cooperative research and analysis of pertinent facets of the ozone management issue. Private sector participants include over 30 utilities, automotive, chemical, and other companies. In addition, numerous universities and private sector research organizations are NARSTO partners.

Background: Tropospheric Ozone

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

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

A 1991 NRC report entitled Rethinking the Ozone Issue in Regional and Urban Air Pollution reviewed the status of ozone management and concluded that "progress toward reducing ozone concentrations has been severely hampered by the lack of a coordinated national program directed at elucidating the chemical, physical, and meteorological processes that control ozone formation and concentration."

The NSTC is a cabinet-level council established by President Clinton in November 1993. It is the principal means for coordinating science and technology across the Federal government. The science-based, policy-relevant objectives of NARSTO and the cooperative government/industry/academia approach to regional ozone research embody the key spirit of what the NSTC and CENR seek 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

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