API to Jackson: Use authority to reject proposed ozone rules

US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson recently exercised her discretionary authority to reject proposed secondary standards for nitrogen and sulfur oxides. An American Petroleum Institute official urged her to take the same step with EPA’s broader ozone standards proposal.

“For the sake of our economy and jobs, the administrator should exercise the same policy judgment on the ozone standards now under review at the White House,” API Regulatory and Scientific Policy Director Howard Feldman told reporters during an Aug. 23 teleconference.

“This review is strictly discretionary, not required by statute or the court,” he maintained. “And the harm it could cause to the economy and to jobs is enormous.”

Feldman said Jackson set an important precedent earlier in August when she rejected a staff recommendation to establish secondary standards for nitrogen and sulfur oxides. The staff alleged that the pollutants were causing aquatic acidification, without being able to show a direct or consistent connection, and EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee found that a revised National Ambient Air Quality Standard was warranted, the API official said.

“However, the evidence was not strong in the administrator’s view, and she made the policy decision not to propose establishing the standards,” he said, adding, “While we do not agree with her substitute proposal for a pilot program, her policy decision to reject the staff’s recommendation to impose a combined secondary standard for these pollutants was sound.”

Feldman, who planned to testify later in the week at an EPA hearing on the matter, said the staff’s recommendation to develop an atmospheric acidification index of the combined effects of sulfur and nitrogen oxides did not consider whether different areas can tolerate different acidification levels, and that it essentially is a local problem which can’t be addressed effectively by a national regulation. The existing federal acid rain program already does this, he added.

Underestimated impacts

Feldman said Jackson needs to reject the broader ozone standard proposals because EPA has seriously underestimated their economic impacts and overestimated the capacity to develop the necessary technology to meet their more stringent limits. “EPA doesn’t know what the controls would be in the estimated 3,000 of the nation’s 3,100 counties would be, and how much they would cost,” he said, adding, “It just estimated that it would be around the costs of the most expensive technologies we know, but could not calculate the impacts of demand. It also said that costs could be much higher if new technologies can’t be developed.”

Asked if EPA was considering regulatory revisions that would have a positive impact on the oil and gas industry, he said the federal environmental regulator is recommending phasing out the requirement for gasoline retailers to have Stage Two vapor recovery systems. Vehicle onboard systems, which did not exist when the regulation was imposed in the 1980s, achieve the same result now and the regulation is redundant, he explained.

“We’re going to hear a lot of talk about the regulatory agenda, and the need to look at it in the next few weeks,” Feldman said. “We believe this discretionary ozone proposal should be at the top of the list.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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