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EPA's New Ozone Standard Pleases No One

The EPA chose to reduce the current standard of 75 parts per billion, unchanged since 2008, by 5 ppb. Public health and environmental groups insist that a safe standard would be 60 ppb, while businesses point to the high costs to comply with 70 ppb.
October 2, 2015, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency's press release, "(t)he updated standards will reduce Americans’ exposure to ozone, improving public health protection, particularly for at risk groups including children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma."

"The limit is at the high end of the range that the Environmental Protection Agency's independent scientific advisory panel recommended last year, which was between 60 and 70 parts per billion," writes Amy Harder of The Wall Street Journal.

“The level chosen, of 70 parts per billion, simply does not reflect what the science shows is necessary to truly protect public health,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, one of the public-health groups that sued the EPA to issue the standard by Oct. 1. “Nonetheless, the standard announced today offers significantly greater protection than the previous, outdated standard.”

"Ground level or 'bad' ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight," notes the EPA webpage

"The ozone standard, mandated under the Clean Air Act, isn’t a direct regulation of business," writes Harder. "But states must comply by curbing emissions from utilities, factories, refineries and other businesses and municipalities, often by requiring new pollution-control gear.

Four years ago, during Obama's first term, then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dropped proposed regulations that would have strengthened the Ozone standard, giving a major victory to industry.

Once again, the decision left "green groups feeling betrayed and threatening legal action," writes Alex Guillén, energy reporter for POLITICO Pro.

David Baron, the managing attorney with Earthjustice, called the standard "weak-kneed" and "a betrayal of the Clean Air Act’s promise of healthy air." He said it is likely his group and other environmentalists would sue.

"But business groups, which had pushing the administration to keep the standard at its current 75 ppb level, say the regulations will be the most expensive in U.S. history, siphoning as much as $3.4 trillion out of the economy over the next two decades," writes Ben Wolfgang of The Washington Times.

However, even businesses recognized that the standard could have been stricter.

"For months, the administration threatened to impose on manufacturers an even harsher rule, with even more devastating consequences, said National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons. "After an unprecedented level of outreach by manufacturers and other stakeholders, the worst-case scenario was avoided."

"EPA says the standard will cost $1.4 billion a year by 2025, not including California, which has more time to comply with the standard given the decadeslong air-pollution issues in that state," writes Harper. "The agency says the standard would have public-health benefits valued between $2.9 billion and $5.9 billion."

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, October 1, 2015 in The Wall Street Journal
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