This afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed governors that the agency will grant states an additional year for initial compliance designations under the 2015 ozone standard. This is welcome regulatory relief for manufacturers, who are working hard to comply with the 2008 and 2015 ozone standards but run the risk of falling into “no-grow zones” if their states do not reach the 2015 levels quickly enough.
The 2015 ozone regulation could be one of the most expensive regulations ever issued by the U.S. government. The 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb)—the most stringent standard ever—was never even fully implemented, while emissions are as low as they have been in decades and air quality continues to improve. The EPA itself admitted that implementation of the previous standard of 75 ppb, when combined with the dozens of other regulations on the books that will reduce ozone precursor emissions from stationary and mobile sources, will drive ozone reductions below 75 ppb (and close to 70 ppb, the current standard set in 2015) by 2025.
Throughout the 2015 ozone rulemaking, hundreds of governors, mayors, local development officials, manufacturers and other leaders warned the EPA that they could not comply with a tighter standard under the strict timelines the EPA requires. Air quality officials from cities and states across the country have testified before Congress that they may run out of controls before they even reach the levels mandated by the EPA. Manufacturers appreciate that the EPA is acknowledging this very real problem.
The EPA also announced it would continue to look into three issues the NAM raised in its comments on the 2015 rule and in subsequent requests to the agency: (1) how the EPA calculates background ozone; (2) the impact of emissions from outside the United States on local ozone levels; and (3) timely consideration of exceptional events designations. Fixing these issues will go a long way toward more flexibility for manufacturers as they continue to reduce their emissions.