US regulator postpones plans for stricter ozone standard

26 July 2011 20:14  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday it has postponed plans for a new ozone standard, apparently backing away from a rule that was widely opposed by the broad US manufacturing and business sectors.

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency’s proposal to toughen the nationwide standard for ozone contamination in the air was undergoing further interagency review and would not be made final on Friday as originally planned.

Gilfillan said the agency remains fully committed to changing the standard for ground level ozone and would issue a final rule shortly.

The EPA’s decision to delay its new ozone standard came a week after a broad coalition of US manufacturing, energy and business interests warned that the new rule could effectively shut down production and commerce across the country, eliminate jobs and force even more US capacity offshore.

In a press conference on 19 July, top officials of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the American Petroleum Institute (API), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce warned that the new EPA ozone rule would put most counties in the nation in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and force wide-scale production rollbacks.

The business groups noted that according to the EPA’s own estimates, US businesses and manufacturers would have to spend as much as $90bn/year (€64bn/year) to comply with the new standard.

They also cited a study by the Manufacturers Alliance contending that the new ozone requirement would create $1,000bn in new compliance costs and eliminate 7.3m jobs over ten years.

Gilfillan said “a new ozone standard will be based on the best science and meet the obligation established under the Clean Air Act to protect health".

But the EPA spokesman also noted that a new ozone rule would be implemented with consideration of “costs, jobs and the economy".

Ross Eisenberg, environmental and energy counsel at the US Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the EPA’s delay of its proposed new ozone standard.

“We hope this means that the administration will take another hard look for doing this rule reconsideration,” he said. “This is not the right time for a new ozone standard, and it doesn’t make sense given the state of the economy.”

The EPA’s planned ozone standard is known as a “reconsideration” rule because the agency decided to revise the 2008 ozone standard established during the administration of President George W Bush.

The Obama EPA said the Bush-era standard was not sufficiently stringent and decided to reconsider that 2008 rule well ahead of the five-year revision that would have been due in 2013, as specified by the Clean Air Act.

Eisenberg said the Chamber would prefer that the EPA simply abandon its plan to revise the ozone rule before the scheduled 2013 review as provided by law and wait until 2012-2013 as the statute stipulates.

He also said business would welcome the EPA’s pledge to “use the best science” in considering a new ozone standard.

“If they were using the ‘best science’ they would be using 2011 science, not the 2008 record,” Eisenberg added.

He said in revising the ozone standard, the EPA was relying on the scientific record used for the 2008 ozone rule and ignoring more contemporary data concerning business compliance with the 2008 standard and current ozone levels across the country.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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