This afternoon, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine the implementation of the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standard and to discuss legislation to improve the challenges this new regulation has created for manufacturers. In late 2015, in the face of overwhelming opposition from governors, mayors, economic development councils, transportation authorities and all segments of the industry, the EPA tightened the ozone standard to 70 parts per billion (ppb), down from 75 ppb. This move was certain to place counties across the United States into nonattainment, essentially turning them into “no-grow zones” that businesses typically avoid.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) didn’t like the new standard—in fact, we were forced to enlist our own Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action to litigate the final rule—but if that standard is to stay in place, we certainly need help implementing it. More importantly, we need help now, since the 2015 rule’s deadlines are still running. For many areas, the pain could start very soon.
For instance, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District told a House subcommittee last year that, to reduce ozone, it already has taken such extreme steps as banning residents from using their fireplaces in most winter months and implementing regulations that limit the amount of time lids can be off paint cans. Even with these measures, they will not meet the current ozone standard even if they eliminate emissions from all stationary and area sources, off-road equipment, farm equipment, passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. It’s not just California that has these problems. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources noted in its 2015 comments to the proposed rule that there were no effective control measures left available to the state, beyond those already identified and being implemented, to reduce ozone levels in the Atlanta nonattainment area.
The committee will examine two bills designed to address Ozone implementation issues: the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 (S. 263) and the ORDEAL Act of 2017 (S. 452). Both would create a more flexible glide path for manufacturers to comply with the 2015 standard, allowing reductions to continue through 2025 without the unnecessary economic pain of ozone nonattainment. Both would also change the five-year review cycle for new standards to a more reasonable 10-year cycle, which is the typical time the agency needs to complete these reviews. S. 263 also takes positive steps to address manufacturers’ permitting challenges as they pertain to ozone standards and requires real examination of the impact of international air pollution on domestic ozone levels.
The NAM looks forward to working with the committee to fix the implementation challenges related to the 2015 ozone standards.