US House passes EPA ozone limits bill along party lines

The US House approved HR 4775 by 234 to 177 votes, largely along party lines, as Republicans said the measure would give states more time to implement federal ozone limits, and Democrats argued that it would gut the Clean Air Act.

The June 8 action came 3 weeks after the Energy and Commerce Committee approved it, also along party lines (OGJ Online, May 20, 2016). Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.) and five cosponsors introduced it on Mar. 17.

It would delay implementation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, which the US Environmental Protection Agency published in 2015. States would have until Oct. 26, 2024, to submit implementation designations. EPA would have another year to designate state areas as being in attainment, nonattainment, or unclassifiable. States would then have until Oct. 26, 2026, to implement, maintain, and enforce the 2016 NAAQS.

The bill also would change the review cycle for criteria pollutant NAAQS from 5 to 10 years, and would not permit EPA to complete its next review before Oct. 26, 2025. It would let the agency consider, as a secondary consideration, likely technological feasibility in establishing and revising NAAQS for a pollutant if a range of air quality levels for such pollutant are requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.

“Our nation has worked hard to reduce ozone levels and improve air quality,” Olson said following the bill’s passage. “As we continue this progress, we need to give states better tools to meet air quality goals efficiently. As we work to keep this trend moving in the right direction, my bill provides needed flexibility so that states and localities can adequately achieve new, lower standards with time for compliance.”

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers applauded the House’s action. “Air quality improvements are possible without unnecessarily straining our nation’s economy and local and state resources,” AFPM Pres. Chet Thompson said on June 8. “Today’s vote simply affords states with the time needed to meet the existing ozone standards, before turning their attention to the 2015 standards. Such an approach protects the environment and states’ limited resources.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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