As predicted last year in a prior blog post, EPA announced today that it would revise the current ozone standard of 75 ppb downward to 70 ppb. EPA had been contemplating a revised standard between 70 ppb and as low as 60 ppb.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review the ozone standard every five years. The current 75 ppb standard was established in 2008. The EPA was required to review the 2008 ozone standard by March 12, 2013.
President Obama had sharply criticized the 75 ppb standard established by President Bush as not following science. After six years, the Obama Administration finally revised the standard. In April 2014, after multiple delays by EPA, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the EPA to issue a final ozone standard by October 1, 2015.
As previously discussed in a prior post (EPA’s Decision to Deny Ozone Petition Based on Reality), the delays in establishing the ozone standard have been very beneficial to the states and industry. There are significant federal regulations that mandate cuts in emissions that are being phased in over time. These federal regulations are much more effective in reducing ozone levels than local controls that can be imposed by the states. The delays have allowed more time for the federal regulations to take effect.
As noted in an article on POWER, the 70 ppb will likely be relief to many in the power sector who thought the standard could be lower. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the American Lung Association was somewhat critical of the final standard:
“The level chosen, of 70 parts per billion, simply does not reflect what the science shows is necessary to truly protect public health,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, one of the public-health groups that sued the EPA to issue the standard by Oct. 1. “Nonetheless, the standard announced today offers significantly greater protection than the previous, outdated standard.”
Ozone Standard in Ohio
Back in March of this year, Ohio EPA provided comments on U.S. EPA proposed ozone standard and asserted there was no scientific basis to lower the standard below 75 ppb.
"Ohio EPA is unaware of any new study or scientific evidence that compels a change to the existing standard. When setting the 2008 standard, U.S. EPA had before it a largely similar set of studies as are before U.S. EPA now. In 2008, U.S. EPA considered all available information, examining the potential for setting the standard as low as .060 ppm, but nevertheless chose .075 ppm. Just as in 2008, Ohio EPA does not see a clear-cut basis for arriving at the conclusion of setting a significantly lower standard."
Based on air quality data from 2012 through 2014, two of the three areas in Ohio designated as nonattaintment are now achieving the 75 ppb standard. The last area that remains in nonattainment is entitled to a one year extension.
As Ohio has nearly achieved compliance with the 2008 standard, it will now need to submit new plans to reduce ozone levels further.