US chems and others protest new enviro proposal

21 June 2007 18:53  [Source: ICIS news]

US chems say new air rules will drive utilities to natgasWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Chemical producers and a broad range of other manufacturers raised sharp objection on Thursday to plans by US environmental officials to raise air quality standards, warning that energy costs will increase dramatically.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said earlier on Thursday that it wants to strengthen the maximum levels for ground-level ozone allowed under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). 


The agency is inviting public comment on the possibility of lowering the current standard of 0.08 parts per million (ppm) for ozone in outdoor air to as little as 0.06 ppm, although the agency suggested that the next standard would more likely be in the 0.07 to 0.075 ppm range.


The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) objected, arguing that “There is no need to change the current standard because it is working as intended and air quality is improving”.


Association executive vice president Charles Drevna noted that according to EPA’s own data, “emissions of six key pollutants dropped 54% between 1970 and 2006 even as the economy grew dramatically, and national average ozone levels have dropped 21% since 1980”.


Drevna pointed out that the current EPA 0.08 ppm standard has not been fully implemented across the US and warned that toughening the ozone standard now would put further burdens on American industry.


Association spokesman Bill Holbrook noted that the NAAQS was a principal reason why many US electric utilities moved from coal as a power-generating fuel to cleaner burning natural gas.  That broad shift helped drive the three-fold increase in US natgas prices that has undermined domestic chemicals production, which is wholly dependent on gas as a feedstock.


The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which includes many chemical producers among its 14,000 member companies, charged that EPA is “moving the goal posts in the middle of the game” by seeking a tougher ozone requirement before most US states have met the current standard.


“Because the easiest way for industry to comply with ozone standards is to switch to clean-burning natural gas, changing the standard will have a significant impact on the costs of manufactured products, electricity and doing business in the US,” the manufacturers' group said.  The new standards “have the real potential to do much harm” NAM said.


EPA said its new ozone level proposal will be open to public comment for 90 days and that four public hearings will be held across the US through September.  A final rule is not likely until first quarter 2008.

By: Joe Kamalick
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