Thursday, 04 June 2015 00:00

U.S. Senate Committee Examines EPA’s Proposed Air Quality Standards

On June 3, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing titled, “Challenges and Implications of EPA’s Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ground-Level Ozone and Legislative Hearing on S. 638, S. 751, and S. 640.”

Currently, the ozone standard rests at 75 parts per billion (ppb). Under the EPA’s proposed change, the standard would be between 65 and 70 ppb. The EPA is now taking comment on an even more aggressive standard of 60 ppb.

During the hearing, committee members heard from U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), sponsor of S. 638, the Commonsense Legislative Exceptional Events Reforms Act (CLEER), and S. 640, the Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length Act (ORDEAL).

If implemented, the CLEER Act would amend the Clean Air Act with respect to an Exceptional Events rule, while the ORDEAL Act would delay the review and revision of the national ambient air quality standards for ozone. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also addressed the committee to defend his bill, S. 751, the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act (CASE). This bill would prohibit the EPA from lowering its national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) until at least 85 percent of counties that are in nonattainment areas have attained the standard.

Although the committee as a whole agreed on the importance of cleaner air, the members took a more partisan stance when it came to the proposal of changing the standard.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), committee chairman, said, “EPA’s ozone proposal is the most expensive regulation in history with projected costs of $1.7 trillion and 1.4 million lost jobs. Up to 67 percent of counties fail to meet the proposed lower standards, which means if this rule goes forward, they will face a legacy of EPA regulatory oversight, stiff federal penalties, lost highway dollars, restrictions on infrastructure investment and increased costs to businesses.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking member, disagreed with the chairman, stating, “To ensure the health impacts of air pollution continue to be addressed, the EPA is required to review the standards every five years to make sure they are up to date. Despite what some of my Republican colleagues may try to claim today, scientists overwhelmingly agree that EPA needs to adopt a stricter standard to protect the health of the American people, especially our children and the elderly. We have known since 2008 that the current ozone standard does not provide the necessary health safeguards.”

The EPA is expected to make a final decision on the proposal to update the air quality standards for ground-level ozone by November 2015. For more information, please click here.

ASA has held meetings with the U.S. EPA at its National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., and on Capitol Hill regarding the proposed new standard. In addition, ASA has discussed the proposal with state air quality representatives concerning the impact these new standards could have on state implementation plans and vehicle emissions and inspection programs.