House subcommittee advances Olson’s NAAQS implementation relief bill

A US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee forwarded legislation aimed at giving states more flexibility in implementing federal ground-level ozone standards to the full committee by a 12-8 vote. The American Petroleum Institute and American Chemistry Council separately applauded the June 15 action by the Environment Subcommittee.

Energy Subcommittee Chairman Pete Olson (R-Tex.) introduced H.R. 806 on Feb. 2 with 17 Republican and 2 Democrat cosponsors. The subcommittee held a hearing on the bill on Mar. 22. Companion legislation, S. 263, was introduced on Feb. 2 in the US Senate by Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) with 1 Democrat and 4 Republican cosponsors.

Business groups and state regulators complained that states were still trying to complete their implementation of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 75 ppb 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) when EPA imposed more stringent limits in 2015. They warned that the new 70 ppb limit potentially could push national parks and other nonindustrial areas out of compliance, triggering harsh federal penalties, because the new standard did not account for background ozone.

The House and Senate bills would extend the deadline for states to implement ozone limits under the 2015 NAAQS until Oct. 26, 2024, and for the EPA to designate areas in attainment, not in attainment, or unclassifiable under the 2015 standards. They also would change the review cycle for criteria pollutants to 10 years from 5 years, and not let EPA complete its next ozone NAAQS review before Oct. 26, 2025.

EPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt notified US governors earlier this month that he has extended by 1 year the deadline for states to promulgate initial area designations under the 2015 NAAQS (OGJ Online, June 7, 2017).

Olson’s bill recognizes that the US continues to improve its air quality under existing regulations as the US oil and gas industry helps meet the nation’s energy needs, said Howard J. Feldman, API regulatory and scientific affairs senior director. “This is a smart step forward, and we urge the full House to quickly pass this legislation,” he said.

In a separate statement, the American Chemistry Council said the bill would help assure that manufacturers who want to invest and hire in the US can obtain regulatory permits quickly and efficiently. “EPA has failed to provide needed implementation rules and guidance in a timely manner, leaving facilities and state permitting agencies in limbo,” it said. “The confusion and delays that result from EPA’s approach to setting and implementing ozone standards can put new investment and jobs at risk.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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