CPR's McGarity Responds to EPA's New Ozone Standard

Thomas McGarity

Oct. 1, 2015

The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far too long to make this much-needed change.

We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite the fact that this delay came at the expense of the health of vulnerable Americans.

The Supreme Court has held that the Clean Air Act prohibits EPA from taking such cost considerations into account when setting the standards, but that does not stop affected industries from railing against any protections the agency promulgates to protect public health.

We can expect the regulated industries to complain that a 70 ppb standard will cost too much as well.  And they will undoubtedly challenge the new standard in court.

In addition, when the litigation is done, we will still be more than a decade away from meeting the standard in many of the most populous regions of the country.Once EPA promulgates the standard, EPA has two years to designate which areas have attained the standard and which have not.  The states have 3 years after the promulgation of the standard to write state implementation plans designed to attain the standard by 5 years after the designation in non attainment areas (or ten years, if EPA grants and extension), but the process never proceeds this smoothly, and EPA usually misses the designation deadline.

We would all be better served if the industries and a few industry-dominated state environmental agencies quit fighting with EPA and got down to the task of protecting the public health by reducing emissions sufficiently to meet the new standard.

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