Bipartisan Ozone Bill Clears US House; Eases Compliance Costs
Ground level ozone is formed through a chemical reaction when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) interact with sunlight. Emissions from utilities, automobiles, manufacturing facilities, gasoline vapors and solvents are man-made sources of VOCs. Natural sources, including fires and plants are also contributors to ozone formation. High ozone concentrations can pose health risks, especially to vulnerable populations.
Fortunately, US ozone levels have been dropping by 32% since 1980, though many urban areas have not fully achieved the standard set by the federal government.
Despite this significantly positive overall progress, ozone endures as “background” from natural sources or by migrating in from other areas, including on the West Coast, from as far away as Asia.
Ozone is regulated under the federal Clean Air Act which presently requires the Government to review and consider revising its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and other specified air pollutants every five years. The NAAQS applies to carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulates, and sulfur dioxide.
Between 1980 and 2015, ozone levels nationwide have fallen 32 percent, and have dropped nearly 20 percent in the past decade alone. These trends are expected to continue.
Nonetheless, on October 1, 2015 US EPA revisited its ozone requirements and issued a new, tighter, 70 parts per billion (ppb) standard, over the objections of many thousands of businesses, which were concerned about costs. The Government last revised the ozone standard in 2008, when it lowered permissible concentrations from 84 to 75 ppb. Due to ongoing litigation against the rule from states and industry, the Trump Administration’s US EPA said in April of 2017 that it would review the 2015 rule. The new Administration subsequently moved in June 2017 to delay the ozone rule for one year, and may make final (nonattainment) decisions on areas out of compliance by October 2018.
In early February 2017, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representative Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 (S. 263/H.R. 806). These bipartisan bills offer cost-effective alternatives to achieving compliance with US EPA’s 2015 ozone rule. While both bills ensure continued air-quality improvements, they offers states and businesses important flexibilities in implementing innovative ozone compliance strategies. Previously, the 114th Congress, passed similar legislation in 2016.
Most recently, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives on July 16, 2017 voted 229 to 199 to approve H.R. 806. The bill resets the 2015 ozone standard to 2018, and extends US EPA’s statutory review of air quality standards from five to 10 years. The companion bill (S. 263) is advancing in the US Senate.
Andeavor supports these legislative endeavors.