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CRS Submits Comments to EPA, Concerned the Agency Doesn’t Fully Understand Background Ozone

03/31/2016

CRS joins bipartisan calls to halt implementation of new ozone standard until background ozone fully understood

Washington D.C. – Karen Kerrigan, President of the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS), a project of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, today submitted formal comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) docket critiquing EPA’s White Paper on background ozone and its subsequent two-day workshop in Phoenix, AZ  held in February.  In the comments, Kerrigan explains that the EPA is not prepared to accurately account for background ozone as it moves to implement new, lower National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground level ozone.  Background ozone is the ozone that is generated by factors outside the state’s control, such as pollution originating overseas or outside the state, the region’s high elevation and topography, or natural occurrences like wildfires.

There’s widespread agreement from air quality experts that the EPA is not adequately informed about the role of background ozone, how it’s transported, and how it should be accounted for,” said Kerrigan. “An ozone standard that punishes states for ozone they cannot control is fundamentally unfair and can wreak havoc on communities and small businesses, especially out West.  Implementation of the new ozone standard will result in unnecessary layers of red tape that will stifle job creation and economic development.  The EPA should heed the calls of state air regulators and elected leaders and put the brakes on this harmful and ill-advised regulation.”

Click here to read the full comments submitted by CRS.

In February, CRS joined others stakeholders, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in calling for EPA to halt implementation on the new lower standard until EPA has a better handle on how to measure and provide exemptions for background ozone.  Garrick Taylor with ACCI noted, “If the EPA doesn’t account adequately for background ozone when implementing these new standards, we’re simply going to be unfairly punished in Arizona.”

CRS’ comments submitted to EPA today include a technical review of EPA’s White Paper, which found that the agency used too narrow a scope to assess the impact of background ozone in Western states, and failed to take into consideration studies that concluded that background ozone can account for up to 93 percent of the 70 parts per billion (ppb) NAAQS in certain states. As a result, several Western states will likely be unable to meet the new 2015 ozone NAAQS standards.

Similar concerns were raised at the two-day workshop in Phoenix by state air regulators and business leaders. Despite objections, the EPA chose to keep the first day of the workshop closed to the public, leading Arizona Senator Jeff Flake to blast the agency for its lack of transparency, noting that “some of the most important discussions are set to take place behind closed doors.”  On the second day, participants raised concerns with the integrity of EPA’s modeling for background ozone, EPA’s management of states’ applications for “exceptional event” exclusions, and EPA’s failure to provide a solution for cross-border emissions. Responding to these concerns, Chet Wayland, director of EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) Air Quality Assessment Division admitted, “If this wasn’t challenging, we wouldn’t be here.”

At the workshop, CRS Chief Economist Ray noted: “The agency is largely regulating ahead of the science on background ozone, and I think a lot of people today confirmed that. [Our] paper concluded that the new ozone standard is too close to background levels in many parts of the country. And this leaves states and local governments with very few ways, if any ways, to avoid violating the federal standard and the federal sanctions that go with it.”

Wide-spread opposition has been raised to EPA’s new ozone standard, with bipartisan calls for EPA to back down on implementation.  Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recently introduced bipartisan legislation to give state air regulators more time and flexibility to implement the new standards and leading lawmakers in Colorado this month called on the EPA to halt implementation.  The EPA has conceded that the Denver metropolitan area will be unable to meet the stringent new ozone standard by 2025, due to “background ozone.” Colorado’s top two Democratic lawmakers, Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael, have even raised specific concerns about their state’s ability to comply given background air pollution.  Following this fierce opposition, editorial boards across the West have demanded that EPA “go back to the drawing board.”

 

About CRS

The Center for Regulatory Solutions is a project of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, a 501c(4) advocacy, research, education and networking organization dedicated to protecting small business and promoting entrepreneurship. For twenty-three years, SBE Council has worked to educate elected officials, policymakers, business leaders and the public about policies that enable business start-up and growth.

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