Yesterday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on the Environment, held a hearing to examine the achievability of potential new ozone standards. The EPA, which substantially lowered the Ozone Standard in 2008 and then unsuccessfully tried again in 2010, is widely expected to propose lowering the Ozone Standard even further at some point this year. As witnesses from the scientific, legal, academic and state regulatory community testified today, achieving a lower standard in many parts of the country will be nearly impossible – if not completely impossible – because of naturally occurring ozone or ozone that is beyond the control of any U.S. regulatory agency (known as “background”).
Ozone can travel several thousand miles and concentration levels are greatly impacted by, amongst other things, topography and weather. However, after EPA sets an air quality standard, like the Ozone Standard, states have limited tools with which to achieve these federal mandates. So manufacturers end up bearing the brunt of the costs, even in areas where there are very few industries. In fact, several national parks, with no industrial activity at all, have been found to be in “nonattainment”.
The situation will be particularly vexing in the Western United States, where ozone attributable to pollution from Mexico and several Asian and European countries contributes significantly to higher ozone measurements. Many of these regions are rural areas of the country with few industries, yet according to EPA would be classified as “nonattainment” and left with little hope of future economic development. As EPA considers lowering the Ozone Standard this year, potentially bringing nearly the entire country into nonattainment, serious consideration should be given to the impact background ozone levels have on nonattainment determinations and the impacts a lower ozone standard could have on manufacturers across the country.
Greg Bertelsen is director of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.