API: Keep NAAQS implementation to one set of ozone limits at a time

The American Petroleum Institute urged the US Environmental Protection Agency to limit ground-level ozone controls implementation to one set of requirements at a time so that the Clean Air Act’s requirement to “insure that economic growth will occur in a manner consistent with the preservation of existing clean air resources” will be met.

“Barring other more optimum relief, EPA should use the full scope of its authority under the CAA to transition from the 2008 standards, without saddling states and regulated entities with overlapping attainment requirements,” said API Senior Policy Advisor Ted Steichen.

“We ask the agency to provide compliance flexibility reflecting the inherent difficulty in implementing and achieving standards that can be exceeded through the occurrence of natural phenomena and the influence of foreign emissions sources for which states and tribes have no authority to control,” Steichen testified at a public hearing on EPA’s proposed rule to implement the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone.

US air quality has improved dramatically as previous NAAQS limits have been implemented, Steichen said. EPA’s data show that US ground-level ozone fell 17% from 2010 to 2015.

“In the fact sheet released with the 2015 Ozone NAAQS Rule, EPA stated that agency analyses show the vast majority of US counties will meet the standards by 2025 just with federal and state rules and programs in place or under way prior to the 2015 NAAQS,” Steichen said. “Clearly the states, tribes, and businesses are successfully implementing the ozone standards, and API supports the protection of public health.”

Unfortunate complexity and burdens may be imposed on states, businesses, and consumers if the 2015 ozone limits began to be imposed before states, counties, and parishes fully implement the 2008 standards, he warned.

Steichen said EPA’s proposed implementation rule presents two alternatives for the revoking the 2008 requirements and making a transition to the 2015 standards. API supports the first option because it contains three requested changes and clarifications: attainment demonstrations, bump-up discretion, and reclassification timing.

Specific backsliding obligations could apply depending on an area’s nonattainment classification under Option 1, which includes attainment demonstration requirements, Steichen said.

“Compliance demonstrations may be necessary where a state seeks to alter an area’s attainment status through use of a redesignation substitute, but the potential for redesignation of individual nonattainment areas does not require EPA to broadly require attainment demonstrations as part of its anti-backsliding regulations,” he testified.

“EPA can, and should, simply allow states to conduct compliance demonstrations for the narrow purpose of obtaining redesignation substitutes, but should not require further attainment demonstrations for the 2008 ozone NAAQS after revocation,” Steichen said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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