Aug 3, 2017

House Passes Bill to Delay Ozone Standards to 2025

On July 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, which would delay implementation of the 2015-set national ozone standards to 2025. The legislation, which ACA supported, passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 229-199. It now heads to the Senate for consideration, where a related measure, S.263, is pending.

The bill, if enacted, would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an additional eight years to determine which areas of the country do not meet the 70 parts per billion ozone standards set in 2015. The measure also would extend from every five years to every 10 years the requirement for EPA to review and, if necessary, update the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone and other pollutants.

EPA, in October 2015, 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.

"Our nation has worked hard to reduce ozone levels and improve air quality," said bill sponsor, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas). "As we continue this progress, we need to give states better tools to meet air quality goals efficiently. As we work to keep this trend moving in the right direction, my bill provides needed flexibility so that states and localities can adequately achieve new, lower standards with time for compliance. Health remains the first priority in setting standards and giving our local officials the tools they need make the Clean Air Act work. I'm proud that this common sense bill received bipartisan support in the House and I urge the Senate to act quickly as well."

On a related matter, a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on July 11 approved by voice vote a spending bill that proposes cuts for EPA and Department of Interior, would also further delay national ozone standards implementation until October 2025. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed the spending bill that goes beyond EPA's announcement in June that it would delay by one year — till October 2018 — implementation of the ozone standards. The spending bill will likely be conflated with other appropriations in an omnibus bill.

On June 6, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt notified governors that states would have an additional year to comply with the NAAQS for ozone promulgated in October 2015. EPA said that it 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.

Read on at: