US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator E. Scott Pruitt notified US governors that he has extended by 1 year the deadline for states to promulgate initial area designations under the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards. “States have made tremendous progress and significant investment cleaning up the air. We will continue to work with [them] to ensure they are on a path to compliance,” he said June 6 when the agency announced the extension.
NAAQS rules aim to curb formation of ground-level ozone, a major pollutant. EPA proposed requirements for states to implement the 2015 rules in November (OGJ Online, Nov. 4, 2016). But it quickly became apparent that many states were still in the process of implementing 2008 requirements that EPA had issued.
There also were concerns that the more stringent 70-ppb limits under the 2015 standard might push some areas out of compliance because of background, nonindustrial ozone. Noncompliance can trigger significant federal penalties for state and local governments under the Clean Air Act.
The American Petroleum Institute urged EPA earlier this year to limit NAAQS implementation to one set of requirements at a time so that the CAA’s requirement to “insure that economic growth will occur in a manner consistent with the preservation of existing clean air resources” will be met (OGJ Online, Jan. 12, 2017).
In its June 6 announcement, EPA said states will have more time now so they can be more flexible in developing their ozone-control plans. Pursuant to language in the recently enacted fiscal 2017 Omnibus funding bill, Pruitt also is establishing an Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force to develop additional flexibilities for states to comply, the agency said.
EPA also plans to use the additional time to better understand what it termed “some lingering, complicated issues so that air attainment decisions can be based on the latest and greatest information.” The added time also will give it time to review the 2015 NAAQS prior to taking this initial implementation step, it said.
It noted that while the new ozone limits were established on Oct. 1, 2015, several issues which could hamper state and local efforts to comply have emerged. EPA said that it primarily plans to focus on:
• Fully understanding the role of background ozone levels.
• Appropriately accounting for international transport.
• Timely consideration of exceptional events demonstrations.
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