Jul 5, 2017

EPA Extends NAAQS Ozone Compliance Date by One Year

(PAINT.ORG) On June 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt notified governors that states would have an additional year to comply with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone promulgated in October 2015. EPA is giving states more time to develop air quality plans, and the agency is looking at providing greater flexibility to states as they develop their plans. Pursuant to the language in the recently enacted FY2017 Omnibus funding bill, Administrator Pruitt is establishing an Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force to develop additional flexibilities for states to comply with the ozone standard.

Additionally, EPA said it is taking time to better understand "some lingering, complicated issues so that air attainment decisions can be based on the latest and greatest information. This additional time will also provide the agency time to review the 2015 ozone NAAQS, prior to taking this initial implementation step."

In October 2015, EPA lowered the National Ozone Standard from 0.75 parts per million (ppm) to 0.70 ppm. However, EPA's final rule on the ozone standard is forcing a significant number of states that are currently "in attainment" to "non-attainment" status, triggering a requirement to revise their State Implementation Plans and adopt even stricter volatile organic compound (VOC) emission regulations for coatings. This triggering event is being realized as ozone monitors across the country are demonstrating a marked improvement in air quality under the 2008 standard of 0.75 ppm.

ACA has long advocated for a two-step solution to this problem, most recently in comments submitted to EPA and the Department of Commerce as part of the regulatory reform review mandated by Executive Order 13777, Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda. ACA has suggested that, 1) EPA should revert to the 2008 standard of 0.75 ppm and fully implement this standard so that the forward progress already achieved can be extended without unnecessarily burdening the paint industry with increased standards and costs for many years to come; and 2) EPA should amend the Clean Air Act Regulations to extend the time for review of the ozone standard to every 10 years. Currently the Act requires a review every five (5) years. ACA noted that extending the review of the ozone standard to every 10 years will allow for more stability in the marketplace for formulators while still protecting human health and the environment.

ACA is also taking this message to members of Congress as there are bills in both the House and Senate, S.263 and H.R. 806, that would push back deadlines for Obama-era ozone standards.

In a statement, EPA acknowledged that although the new ozone standard was set on October 1, 2015, there remains a host of complex issues that could undermine associated compliance efforts by states and localities. The agency says it is evaluating these issues, and is

primarily focused on:

  • fully understanding the role of background ozone levels;
  • appropriately accounting for international transport; and
  • timely consideration of exceptional events demonstrations.

Since 1980, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants have dropped by 63 percent, and ozone levels have declined by 33 percent. Despite the continued improvement of air quality, costs associated with compliance of the ozone NAAQS have significantly increased.