Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, held a hearing to examine the science behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) upcoming review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. As directed by the Clean Air Act, the EPA reviews and sets standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment every five years.
During the last review, in 2008, the ozone standard was set at 75 parts per billion. Even though precursor emissions for ozone have decreased by 50 percent over the last 30 years, and states have yet to begin implementing the 2008 ozone standards, the EPA has suggested lowering ozone standards to as low as 60 parts per billion.
“EPA data suggests that areas in virtually every state would violate these standards if the Agency went lower than the current limit of 75 parts per billion,” Chairman Stewart said. “The result leaves little room for states like Utah to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act, and the consequences include draconian reduction requirements, severe economic sanctions, threats to highway funding, and construction bans.”
More concerning, if EPA lowers its standard to 60 parts per billion, there are places in this country that may not meet the standard even if they eliminated all human emissions.
“An air quality standard that cannot be met in Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Zion, or the Grand Canyon is divorced from reality,” Chairman Stewart said.
Additionally, EPA has estimated that new standards could cost $90 billion annually.
“The lower ozone standard of 60 parts per billion, which is currently being discussed by EPA, would be incredibly expensive,” Chairman Stewart said. “In fact, even the EPA’s conservative cost estimate of $90 billion a year would make this proposed rule the most expensive regulation ever considered. EPA claims that there are flexibilities within Clean Air Act implementation that could resolve some concerns about compliance due to exceptional events or international emissions. However, the Agency’s track record on approving state applications under these provisions leaves little room for comfort.”
The following witnesses testified at the hearing:
Ms. Amanda Smith, Executive Director, Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Mr. Samuel Oltmans, Senior Research Associate, Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, and Earth System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division
Dr. Russell Dickerson, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland
Mr. Jeffrey Holmstead, Partner, Bracewell & Giiuliani LLP
Dr. John Vandenberg, Director, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina Division, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For a copy of Chairman Stewart’s full opening remarks, click here.