The Obama Administrative continues to be heavily criticized by industry for its aggressive development of greenhouse gas regulations. In contrast to the dizzying pace of new greenhouse gas regulations stands finalization of a new ozone standard…something the President promised to do after being elected to his first term.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review the ozone standard every five years. In 2008, the Bush Administration set the new ozone limit at 75 parts per billion (ppb). That was tighter than the existing regulations, but considerably weaker than the 60 to 70 ppb recommended by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC- a science advisory panel which advises EPA in settings National Ambient Air Quality Standards).
Litigation ensued over the Bush standard. However, a cease fire was called when the Obama Administration took office and called the 75 ppb indefensible. The EPA promised to revisit the standard and set it somewhere between the 60 to 70 ppb recommended by CASAC.
After two prior deadlines passed without a new standard, the Administration identified August of 2012 as the final date. That date came and the Administration again said they would delay final standards until 2013. Yet nothing happened last year. Now, it appears the Administration may be making progress toward finalizing the standard.
On February 3rd, EPA release two reports- its draft risk and exposure assessment and the Second External Review Policy Assessment for the New Ozone Standard. Both of these reports confirm what was known five years ago- the recommendation is to lower the standard to somewhere between 60 to 70 ppb.
Clearly the Administration still has cold feet about finalizing a revised standard. In fact, we have now gone more than five years since a review of the old standard.
This is all good news to State’s like Ohio with a heavy manufacturing base, larger populations and fossil fuel reliant power base. As discussed in my last post on this topic, the longer the delay the more time existing federal regulations have to take effect to reduce ozone precursors. In reality, the States have very little ability to significantly reduce ozone pollution through state specific regulation.
The lengthy delay may mean that ozone levels will be reduced down to where a 70 ppb standard would be realistically attainable, something that seemed impossible even five years ago.