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EPA Considers Ozone Standard Revisions

LA smogAway from the pomp and punditry of the State of the Union address, the Obama administration is quietly evaluating whether to revise ambient air quality standards for ozone.

A Federal Register notice today says that on or around January 31, the EPA will publish three documents related to potential revisions. The most significant, a policy assessment, is designed to help administrator Gina McCarthy decide what revisions – if any – to make to the existing ozone standard.

Both the primary and secondary ozone standards were last revised in 2008, under George W. Bush’s administration, to 0.075 parts per million over eight hours. The Obama administration proposed in January 2010 to tighten the 8-hour primary standard to a level in the range of 0.06-0.07 ppm, and to establish a seasonal secondary standard in the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. But businesses and Republicans in Congress objected over economic concerns, and in September 2011 the White House shelved the plans, saying the EPA would reconsider the proposals in 2013.

Last July the US Court of Appeals said the EPA must reconsider secondary standards for ozone, but rejected arguments that the current primary standard is either too weak or too strong.

Just last week, the American Lung Association, Sierra Club, NRDC and EDF urged the US district court to force the EPA to complete its ozone standard review, saying the agency missed a March 2013 deadline under the Clean Air Act. The groups asked for a final decision by October 2015.


The forthcoming EPA documents are:

  • A draft document, Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Second External Review Draft. It revises a first draft released in July 2012.
  • Two draft assessment documents, Health Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, Second External Review Draft and Welfare Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, Second External Review Draft. These documents also revise first drafts released in July 2012.

When published, the documents will be available on the EPA website.

The cost of EPA ozone regulations is a key concern for manufacturers in the Houston area, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Takeaway: A battle could be brewing as the Obama administration considers what action to take on ozone standards.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: nanimoshiranai via Flickr

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