On these two pollutants, over the past three and a half years, EPA has conducted one of its most thorough and extensive scientific reviews ever. That review is the basis for the new, more stringent standards for particulate matter and ozone that we have proposed in order to fulfill the mandate of the Clean Air Act.
On average, an adult breathes in about 13,000 liters of air each day. Children breathe in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than do adults.
For 26 years, the Clean Air Act has promised American adults and American children that they will be protected from the harmful effects of dirty air -- based on best available science. Thus far, when you consider how the country has grown since the Act was first passed, it has been a tremendous success. Since 1970, while the U.S. population is up 28 percent, vehicle miles travelled are up 116 percent and the gross domestic product has expanded by 99 percent, emissions of the six major pollutants or their precursors have dropped by 29 percent.
The Clinton Administration views protecting public health and the environment as one of its highest priorities. We have prided ourselves on protecting the most vulnerable among us -- especially our children -- from the harmful effects of pollution. When it comes to the Clean Air Act, I take very seriously the responsibility the Congress gave me to set air quality standards that "protect public health with an adequate margin of safety" -- based on the best science available.
Mr. Chairman, the best available, current science tells me that the current standards for particulate matter and ozone are not adequate, and I have therefore proposed new standards that I believe, based on our assessment of the science, are required to protect the health of the American people.
The standard-setting process includes extensive scientific peer review from experts outside of EPA and the federal government. Under the law, we are not to take costs into consideration when setting these standards. This has been the case through six Presidential administrations and 14 Congresses, and has been reviewed by the courts. We believe that approach remains appropriate. However, once we revise any given air quality standard, it is both appropriate and, indeed, critical that we work with states, local governments, industry and others to develop the most cost-effective, common-sense strategies and programs possible to meet those new standards.
I want to make it clear that at this point we have only proposed revisions to the two standards. We take very seriously our obligation to carefully consider all public comments on these proposals before making a final decision. We want to hear from small businesses, industry, state and local governments, and other citizens like the elderly, children, doctors and people with asthma. While we have proposed specific levels for each pollutant, we are also asking for comment on a wide range of alternative options. I want to assure you here today that I will not make a final decision until comments on all of those alternative options have been carefully considered. EPA went to the court and requested a 60-day extension for the public comment period and the deadline for taking final action on the particulate matter standards. Two days ago, the court granted EPA an extension until March 12, 1997 for the public comment period and until July 19, 1997 for issuing a final decision. We intend to extend the schedule for ozone accordingly.
This morning I would like to describe for you the basis for my recent decisions to propose revisions to the particulate matter and ozone standards. I would also like to discuss some of the innovative approaches we are undertaking to ensure that any newly revised standard would be met in the most cost-effective way possible.
The Clean Air Act directs EPA to identify and set national standards for certain air pollutants that cause adverse effects to public health and the environment. EPA has set national air quality standards for six common air pollutants -- ground-level ozone (smog), particulate matter (measured as PM-10, or particles 10 micrometers or smaller in size), carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
For each of these pollutants, EPA sets what are known as "primary standards" to protect public health and "secondary standards" to protect the public welfare, including the environment, crops, vegetation, wildlife, buildings and monuments, visibility, etc.
Under the Clean Air Act, Congress directs EPA to review these standards for each of the six pollutants every five years. The purpose of these reviews is to determine whether the scientific research available since the last review of a standard indicates a need to revise that standard. The ultimate purpose is to ensure that we are continuing to provide adequate protection of public health and the environment. Since EPA originally set the national air quality standards (most were set in 1971), only two of EPA's reviews of these standards have resulted in revised primary standards -- in 1979, EPA revised the ozone standard to be less stringent; and in 1987, EPA revised the particulate matter standard to focus on smaller particles (those less than 10 micrometers in diameter), instead of all sizes of suspended particles.
By the early 1990's, thousands of new studies had been published on the effects of ozone and there was an emerging body of epidemiological studies showing significant health effects associated with particulate matter. EPA was sued by the American Lung Association to review and make decisions on both the ozone and particulate matter standards. I directed my staff to conduct accelerated reviews of both standards. In March 1993, I completed a review of the ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) with my decision not to revise the NAAQS, and to accelerate the next review in light of emerging information. Soon afterwards, in February 1994, I issued a Federal Register notice committing the Agency to meeting an accelerated schedule for analyzing all of the scientific studies that had become available since EPA completed its last review of the ozone standards. The scientific analysis and review for both pollutants are completed and EPA proposed revisions to the two standards late last year. We expect to announce final decision on both pollutants by July 19, 1997.
I would like to make one final point on this matter. Although the reviews for both the ozone and particulate matter standards have been accelerated, I gave them very high priority and focused the necessary resources on them to ensure that we conducted an exhaustive and open review of the science. The criteria documents alone were six inches thick for particulate matter and three inches thick for ozone. I am satisfied that our decision-making process on ozone and particulate matter has been thorough, complete and, as I will describe, based on extensive peer-reviewed science.
Extensive Scientific Review Process Used to Review the Ozone and Particulate Matter National Air Quality Standards
EPA undertakes an extensive scientific and technical assessment process during the standard review for each air pollutant. This includes developing (1) a "criteria document" which reflects the latest scientific knowledge on the kind and extent of all identifiable effects on public health or welfare of the pollutant, and (2) a detailed scientific and technical assessment, known as a "staff paper." Using information in the criteria document, the staff paper arrays a range of policy alternatives based on the scientific evidence and makes recommendations to me. Both of these documents go through extensive public and external scientific peer review.
Our Office of Research and Development is responsible for compiling the "criteria document." These are comprehensive assessments that include thousands of studies that have been published in peer review journals. My Office of Research and Development holds a series of peer review workshops on draft chapters of the criteria document. Once the entire document has been completed in draft form, it is further reviewed by the public and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, or CASAC. Established by Congress, the CASAC is a panel of science experts external to EPA. During the review for each air pollutant, the panel is augmented with additional scientific and technical consultants who have expertise related to that pollutant and its effects. In total, there were 21 scientists and technical experts from academia, research institutes, public health organizations and industry who reviewed the particulate matter criteria document and staff paper and 16 who reviewed the ozone criteria document and staff paper. The CASAC reviews were chaired by George Wolff, an atmospheric scientist from General Motors. CASAC meetings are open to the public.
The CASAC panel reviews the draft criteria documents and the key underlying studies and makes recommendations for revisions to the criteria document. Industry, state and local agencies, and other members of the public also submit extensive comments on the draft criteria documents. My staff then revises the document and submits it for another review by the CASAC and the public. This process sometimes repeats itself two or three times until the CASAC sends EPA what is known as a "closure" letter, pronouncing the criteria document as adequate to be used as a basis for a decision on whether or not a given standard should be revised.
Staff in my Office of Air and Radiation also develops a "staff paper." The purpose of the staff paper is to identify the most policy-relevant information contained in the criteria document and the critical elements that the EPA staff believes should be considered in the review of the standards. The staff paper typically includes quantitative exposure and risk analyses. This document also includes staff recommendations of ranges of alternative standards that should be considered in any decision I may make on revising a standard. Like the criteria document, this draft staff paper is subject to review by the public and the CASAC panel. And like the criteria document, the staff paper often undergoes two or more reviews -- where the scientific panel recommends changes and my staff responds to those recommendations -- before the CASAC issues a letter of "closure" on it as well. At that point the staff paper, along with the criteria document, is ready for me to use in making my decision as to whether it is appropriate to propose any revisions to the standards.
Public Involvement in the Ozone and Particulate Matter Decisions
Throughout the three and a half year process of developing our proposed standards, we have been committed to analyzing the science in an open public forum and ensuring broad public input. Back in February 1994, we published in the Federal Register the schedule we intended to follow for the review of the ozone standard which identified the opportunities for public comment and public meetings.
Each meeting held with the CASAC on criteria documents and staff papers is open to the public. In fact, we have held 11 CASAC meetings totaling more than 124 hours of public discussion on the ozone and particulate matter criteria documents and staff papers. All of these meetings were announced in the Federal Register and open to the general public. In addition to the public meetings and the public review and comment on the criteria documents and staff papers, the public has several other opportunities to provide input to a decision on the ozone and particulate matter standard revisions.
In June 1996, EPA published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking describing the key issues under consideration and time frames for decisions on the two standards. In July 1996, we held national public meetings in Philadelphia and St. Louis, where we presented these key issues and options we were considering on the two standards and received extensive comments from the public. About 100 representatives of industry, state and local governments, and members of the public people provided comments at those meetings.
In my announcement of the proposed revisions last November, I encouraged broad public participation in the comment process in order to obtain the best information available for determining the appropriate final standards. We have established a virtually unprecedented system for the public to provide their comments. In addition to the normal docketing process for receipt of public comments, we have established a national toll-free telephone hotline (1-888-TELL-EPA) to encourage the broadest amount of public comment possible. Over the past two months it has received hundreds of calls from the public. Several key documents have been made available over the Internet. We have also established a system for people to submit their comments via E-mail over the Internet. Again, our goal here is to ensure that we allow for the broadest array of public comment possible.
We also held two days of public hearings on the proposed standard revisions in each of three cities -- Salt Lake City, Chicago and Boston. In addition, we held a day-long public hearing in Durham, North Carolina on our associated proposal for air quality monitoring for particulate matter. At these hearings, more than 400 citizens and organizations provided testimony about their views of our proposed standards.
We have taken other steps to expand the public discourse on these matters. We have held two national satellite telecasts broadcast around the nation to answer questions on the standards from officials from state and local governments, industries and other groups. We are also working with the Air and Waste Management Association, a national organization of industry, government and other air pollution control experts, to hold public meetings on the new standards at more than ten different locations. Beyond that, I have instructed my Regional Administrators to hold public forums around the nation to discuss the issues associated with any possible revision to these air quality standards. My regional office staff are also participating in hearings that states such as California, Texas and Washington are holding on these proposed standard revisions.
In response to requests from a number of interested parties, EPA went to the court and requested an extension of the public comment period and the date for a final decision to provide greater opportunity for public input into these decisions. As I have already mentioned, the court granted us an additional three weeks.
Rationale for EPA's Proposed Revision of the Ozone Standards
Since the mid-1980's, there have been more than 3,000 scientific studies published that are relevant to our understanding of the health and environmental effects associated with ground-level ozone. These peer-reviewed studies were published in independent scientific journals and included controlled human exposure studies, epidemiological field studies involving millions of people (including studies tracking children in summer camps), and animal toxicological studies. Taken as a whole, the evidence indicates that, at levels below the current standard, ozone affects not only people with impaired respiratory systems, such as asthmatics, but healthy children and adults as well. Indeed, one of the groups most exposed to ozone are children who play outdoors during the summer ozone season.
Certain key studies, for example, showed that some moderately exercising individuals exposed for 6 to 8 hours at levels as low as 0.08 parts per million (ppm) (the current ozone standard is set at 0.12 ppm and focuses on 1-hour exposures) experienced serious health effects such as decreased lung function, respiratory symptoms, and lung inflammation. Other recent studies also provide evidence of an association between elevated ozone levels and increases in hospital admissions. Animal studies demonstrate impairment of lung defense mechanisms and suggest that repeated exposure to ozone over time might lead to permanent structural damage in the lungs, though these effects have not been corroborated in humans.
As a result of these and other studies, EPA's staff paper recommended that the current ozone standard be revised from the current one-hour form (that focuses on the highest "peak" hour in a given day) to an 8-hour standard (that focuses on the highest eight hours in a given day). It also recommended setting an 8-hour standard in the range of 0.07 ppm to 0.09 ppm, with multiple exceedances (between one and five per year).
The CASAC panel reviewed the scientific evidence and the EPA staff paper and was unanimous in its support of eliminating the one-hour standard and replacing it with an eight-hour standard. While I do not base my decisions on the views of any individual CASAC member (as a group they bring a range of expertise to the process), it is instructive to note the views of the individual members on these matters. While ten of the 16 CASAC members who reviewed the ozone staff paper expressed their preferences as to the level of the standard, all believe it is ultimately a policy decision for EPA to make. All ten favored a multiple exceedance form. Three favored a level of 0.08 ppm; one favored a level of either 0.08 or 0.09 ppm; three favored the upper end of the range (0.09 ppm); one favored a 0.09-0.10 range with health advisories when a 0.07 level was forecast to be exceeded; and two just endorsed the range presented by EPA as appropriate.
Consistent with the advice of the CASAC scientists and the EPA staff paper, we proposed a new eight-hour standard at 0.08 ppm, with a form that allows for multiple exceedances, by taking the third highest reading each year and averaging those readings over three years. We are asking for comments on a number of alternative options, ranging from eight-hour levels of 0.07 to 0.09 ppm to an option that would retain the existing standard. Just as a point of reference, based on our most recent analysis of children outdoors, when measuring the exposures and risks of concern, as well as the number of areas of the country that would be in "nonattainment" status, the current one-hour ozone standard of 0.12 ppm is roughly equivalent to a 0.09 ppm 8-hour standard with approximately two to three exceedances.
We considered a number of complex public health factors in reaching the decision on the level and form proposed. The quantitative risk assessments that we performed indicated differences in risk to the public among the various levels within the recommended ranges, but they did not by themselves provide a clear break point for a decision. \1\ The risk assessments did, however, point to clear differences among the various standard levels under consideration. These differences indicate that hundreds of thousands of children are not protected under the current standard but would be under EPA's ozone proposal.
\1\CASAC itself agreed that there are a continuum of effects--even down to background--and that there is no "bright line" distinguishing any of the proposed standards as being significantly more protective of public health.
Also, consistent with EPA's prior decisions over the years, it was my view that setting an appropriate air quality standard for a pollutant for which there is no discernible threshold means that factors such as the nature and severity of the health effects involved, and the nature and size of the sensitive populations exposed are very important. As a result, I paid particular attention to the health-based concerns reflected in the independent scientific advice and gave great weight to the advice of the health professionals on the CASAC. To me, this is particularly important given the fact that one of the key sensitive populations being protected would be children. The decision to propose at the 0.08 ppm level reflects this, because, though it is in the middle of the range recommended for consideration by CASAC and the EPA staff paper, as a policy choice it reflects the lowest level recommended by individual CASAC panel members and it is the lowest level tested and shown to cause effects in controlled human-exposure health studies.
Finally, air quality comparisons have indicated that meeting a 0.08 ppm, third highest concentration, eight-hour standard (as proposed by EPA) would also likely result in nearly all areas not experiencing days with peak 8-hour concentrations above the upper end of the range (0.09 ppm) referred to in the CASAC and the EPA staff paper. Given the uncertainties associated with this kind of complex health decision, we believe that an appropriate goal is to reduce the number of people exposed to ozone concentrations that are above the highest level recommended by any of the members of the CASAC panel. The form of the standard we proposed (third highest daily maximum 8-hour average) appears to do the best job of meeting that goal, while staying consistent with the advice of the CASAC as a group, as well as the personal views of individual members.
It is also important to note that ozone causes damage to vegetation including:
- interfering with the ability of plants to produce and store food, so that growth, reproduction and overall plant growth are compromised;
- weakening sensitive vegetation, making plants more susceptible to disease, pests, and environmental stresses; and
- reducing yields of economically important crops like soybeans, kidney beans, wheat and cotton.
Nitrogen oxides is one of the key pollutants that causes ozone. Controlling these pollutants also reduces the formation of nitrates that contributes to fish kills and algae blooms in sensitive waterways, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
As part of its review of the ozone science, the CASAC panel unanimously advised that EPA set a secondary standard more stringent than the current standard in order to protect vegetation from the effects of ozone. However, agreement on the level and form of the secondary standard was not reached.
Rationale for EPA's Proposed Revision to the Particulate Matter Standards
For particulate matter standard review, EPA assessed hundreds of peer reviewed scientific research studies, including numerous community-based epidemiological studies. Many of these community-based health studies show associations between particulate matter (known as PM) and serious health effects. These include premature death of tens of thousands of elderly people or others with heart and/or respiratory problems each year. Other health effects associated with exposure to particles include aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, including more frequent and serious attacks of asthma in children. The results of these health effects have been significantly increased numbers of missed work and school days, as well as increased hospital visits, illnesses, and other respiratory problems.
The recent health studies and a large body of atmospheric chemistry and exposure data have focused attention on the need to address the two major subfractions of PM-10 -- "fine" and "coarse" fraction particles -- with separate programs to protect public health. The health studies have indicated a need to continue to stay focused on the relatively larger particles or "coarse" fraction that are a significant component of PM-10 and are controlled under the current standards. We continue to see adverse health effects from exposures to such coarse particles above the levels of the current standards. As a result, CASAC scientists were unanimous that existing PM-10 standards be maintained for the purpose of continuing to control the effects of exposure to coarse particles.
However, a number of the new health and atmospheric science studies have highlighted significant health concerns with regard to the smaller "fine" particles, those at or below 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These particles are so small that several thousand of them could fit on the type-written period at the end of a sentence. In the simplest of terms, fine particles are of health concern because they can remain in the air for long periods both indoors and outdoors contributing to exposures and can easily penetrate and be absorbed in the deepest recesses of the lungs. These fine particles can be formed in the air from sulfur or nitrogen gases that result from fuel combustion and can be transported many hundreds of miles. They can also be emitted directly into the air from sources such as diesel buses and some industrial processes. These fine particles not only cause serious health effects, but they also are a major reason for visibility impairment in the United States in places such as national parks that are valued for their scenic views and recreational opportunities. For example, visibility in the eastern United States should naturally be about 90 miles, but has been reduced to under 25 miles.
EPA analyzed peer-reviewed studies involving more than five and a half million people that directly related effects of "fine" particle concentrations to human health. For example, one study of premature mortality tracked almost 300,000 people over the age of 30 in 50 U.S. cities.
Based on the health evidence reviewed, the EPA staff paper recommended that EPA consider adding "fine particle" or PM-2.5 standards, measured both annually and over 24 hours. The staff paper also recommended maintaining the current annual and/or 24-hour PM-10 standards to protect against coarse fraction exposures, but in a more stable form for the 24-hour standard. This more stable form would be less sensitive to extreme weather conditions.
When CASAC reviewed the staff paper, 19 out of 21 panel members recommended establishment of new standards (daily and/or annual) for PM-2.5. They also agreed with the retention of the current annual PM-10 standards and consideration of retention of the 24-hour PM-10 standard in a more stable form.
Regarding the appropriate levels for PM-2.5, staff recommended consideration of a range for the 24-hour standard of between 20 and 65 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) and an annual standard to range from 12.5 to 20 ug/m3. Individual members of CASAC expressed a range of opinions about the levels and averaging times for the standards based on a variety of reasons. Four panel members supported specific ranges or levels within or toward the lower end of the ranges recommended in the EPA staff paper. Seven panel members recommended ranges or levels near, at or above the upper end of the ranges specified in the EPA staff paper. Eight other panel members declined to select a specific range or level.
Consistent with the advice of the EPA staff paper and CASAC scientists, in November last year I proposed adding new standards for PM-2.5. Specifically, based on public health considerations, I proposed an annual standard of 15 ug/m3 and a 24- hour standard of 50 ug/m3. In terms of the relative protection afforded, this proposal is approximately in the lower portion of the ranges or options recommended by those CASAC panel members who chose to express their opinions on specific levels. However, taking into account the form of the standard proposed by EPA, we understand that the proposal would fall into the lower to middle portion of the ranges or options. In order to ensure the broadest possible consideration of alternatives, I also asked for comment on options both more and less protective than the levels I proposed.
Also consistent with the advice of the EPA staff paper and CASAC scientists, I proposed to retain the current annual PM-10 standard and to retain the current 24-hour PM-10 standard, but with a more stable form. I also requested comment on whether the addition of a fine particle standard and the maintenance of an annual PM-10 standard means that we should revoke the current 24-hour PM-10 standard.
As has been the case throughout the 25-year history of environmental standard setting, uncertainty has played an important role in decision making on the particulate matter standards. Specifically, the uncertainty about the exact mechanism causing the observed health effects has led some to argue that not enough is known to set new or revised standards. In this case, however, because of the strong consistency and coherence across the large number of epidemiological studies conducted in many different locations, the seriousness and magnitude of the health risks, and/or the fundamental differences between "fine" and "coarse" fraction particles, the CASAC scientists and the experts in my Agency clearly believed that "no action" was an inappropriate response. The question then became one of how best to deal with uncertainty -- that is, how best to balance the uncertainties with the need to protect public health.
Given the nature and severity of the adverse health effects, I chose to meet the Congressional requirement of providing the public with an "adequate margin of safety," by proposing PM-2.5 standards within the ranges recommended in the EPA staff paper and commented upon in the CASAC closure letter. I believe the levels chosen reflect the independent, scientific advice given me about the relationship between the observed adverse health effects and high levels of fine particle pollution. That advice led to a proposed decision toward the lower end of the range of levels for the annual standard which is designed to address widespread exposures and toward the middle of the range for the 24-hour standard, which would serve as a backstop for seasonal or localized effects.
One final note on particulate matter. Some have suggested we need more research before decisions are made about these standards. I strongly support the need for continued scientific research on this and other air pollutants as a high priority. However, as we pursue this research, we must simultaneously take all appropriate steps to protect public health. We believe that tens of thousands of people each year are at risk from fine particles and I believe we need to move ahead with strategies to control these pollutants.
Finding Common Sense, Cost-Effective Strategies for Implementing a Revised Ozone or PM Standard
Throughout the 25-year history of the Clean Air Act and air quality management in the United States, national ambient air quality standards have been established based on an assessment of the science concerning the effects of air pollution on public health and welfare. Costs of meeting the standards and related factors have never been considered in setting the national ambient air quality standards themselves. As you can see from the description of the process I went through to choose a proposed level on ozone and particulate matter, the focus has been entirely on health, risk, exposure and damage to the environment.
I continue to believe that this is entirely appropriate. Sensitive populations like children, the elderly and asthmatics deserve to be protected from the harmful effects of air pollution. And the American public deserves to know whether the air in its cities and counties is unsafe or not; that question should never be confused with the separate issues of how long it may take or how much it may cost to reduce pollution to safe levels. Indeed, to allow costs and related factors to influence the determination of what levels protect public health would be to mislead the American public in a very fundamental way.
While cost-benefit analysis is a tool that can be helpful in developing strategies to implement our nation's air quality standards, we believe it is inappropriate for use to set the standards themselves. In many cases, cost-benefit analysis has overstated costs. In addition, many kinds of benefits are virtually impossible to quantify -- how do I put a dollar value on reductions in a child's lung function or the premature aging of lungs or increased susceptibility to respiratory infection? Very often I cannot set a value and these types of health benefits are, in effect, counted as zero.
At the same time, both EPA and industry have historically tended to overstate costs of air pollution control programs. In many cases, industry finds cheaper, more innovative ways of meeting standards than anything EPA estimates. For example, during the 1990 debates on the Clean Air Act's acid rain program, industry initially projected the costs of an emission allowance (the authorization to emit one ton of sulfur dioxide) to be approximately $1,500, while EPA projected those same costs to be $450 to $600. Today those allowances are selling for less than $100.
Another example involves EPA's regulations in the 1970's and 1980's to reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds from coating and printing operations. Industry developed powder coatings and ultraviolet light-cured coatings that not only reduced emissions to the EPA-required levels, but essentially eliminated emissions altogether. In addition to saving industry the high cost of equipment for the collection and destruction of volatile organic compounds, these coatings provide for faster production, improved efficiency, reduction in energy costs and frequently improved performance. The coating industry has since developed new export markets. The combination of the Clean Air Act and the European goal of zero emissions of volatile organic compounds is driving the industry to develop new techniques. Although the coating industry as a whole predicts growth of two to three percent, the powder and UV-cured coatings are growing much faster to meet the needs of customers to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds.
On the other hand, the Clean Air Act has always allowed that costs and feasibility of meeting standards be taken into account in devising effective emission control strategies and in setting deadlines for cities and counties to comply with air quality standards. This is certainly the case for any revision we might make to either the ozone or the particulate matter standards. This process has worked well. In fact, our preliminary studies indicate that from 1970 to 1990 implementation of the Act's requirements has resulted in significant monetizable benefits many times the direct costs for that same period.
If we ultimately determine that public health is better served by revising one or both of these standards, the Clean Air Act gives us the responsibility to devise new strategies and deadlines for attaining the revised standards. In doing so, we are determined to develop the most cost-effective, innovative implementation strategies possible, and to ensure a smooth transition from current efforts.
To meet this goal, we have used the Federal Advisory Committee Act to establish a Subcommittee for Ozone, Particulate Matter and Regional Haze Implementation Programs. It is composed of almost sixty members of state and local agencies, industry, small business, environmental groups, other federal agencies and other groups and includes five working groups comprised of another 100 or so members of these same kinds of organizations.
The Subcommittee and the various workgroups have been meeting regularly for well over a year working to hammer out innovative strategies for EPA to consider in implementing any revised standards. Members from industry, state governments and others are putting forward position papers advocating innovative ways to meet air quality standards. It is our belief that results from this Subcommittee process will lead us to propose innovative approaches for implementing any new standards. The Subcommittee will continue to meet over the next year to help develop cost-effective, common-sense implementation programs.
The issues being addressed by the Subcommittee include:
- What will be the new deadlines for meeting any new standards? [If EPA tightens a standard, it has the authority to establish deadlines of up to ten years -- with the possibility of additional extensions -- beyond the date an area is designated "nonattainment."]
- What will be the size of the area considered "nonattainment?" If it revises an air quality standard, EPA has the ability to change the size of the affected nonattainment areas and focus control efforts on those areas that are causing the pollution problems, not just the downwind areas that are monitoring unhealthy air.
- How do we address the problem of the pollutants that form ozone and/or fine particles being transported hundreds of miles and contributing to nonattainment problems in downwind areas?
- What kinds of control strategies are appropriate for various nonattainment areas? Can we use the experience of the past several years to target those control strategies that are the most cost-effective?
- How can we promote innovative, market-based air pollution control strategies?
The implementation of these new standards is likely to focus on sources like trucks, buses, power plants and cleaner fuels. In some areas, as with the current standards, our analysis shows that reaching the standards will present substantial challenges. All of the air pollution control programs we are pursuing to meet the current ozone and particulate matter standards, as well as programs to implement other sections of the Clean Air Act, will help meet any revised standards. For example, the sulfur dioxide reductions achieved by the acid rain program will greatly help reduce levels of fine particles, particularly in the eastern United States. Cleaner technology in power plants would also greatly reduce the nitrogen oxides that help form ozone across the eastern United States. In fact, we believe that under certain comprehensive control strategies, more than 70 percent of the counties that could become nonattainment areas under a new ozone standard would be brought back into attainment as a result of a program to reduce nitrogen oxides from power plants and a large number of other sources. Programs under --way to reduce emissions from cars, trucks, and buses will also help meet a revised particulate matter or ozone standard.
I intend to announce our proposals on implementation of the proposed new standards in phases that correspond to the Federal Advisory Committee Act Subcommittee's schedule for deliberating on various aspects of the program. I expect to propose the first phase of that program at the same time that I announce our final decision on revisions to the ozone and particulate matter standards.
In announcing the proposed ozone and particulate matter standards last November, I directed my Office of Air and Radiation to further expand the membership of the Federal Advisory Subcommittee to include more representation from small business and local governments. Also, in conjunction with the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget, we are holding meetings with representatives of small businesses and small governments to obtain their input and views on our proposed standards.
There is one last point I would like to make on this matter. Critics of the proposals have been saying that meeting these proposed standards means widespread carpooling and the elimination of backyard barbecues, among other lifestyle changes. The broad national strategy is being developed by EPA, as I have described, with extensive input from industry, small business, state and local governments and others. While the ultimate decisions as to what programs are needed to meet air quality standards are up to the state and local governments, I would like to state categorically that there will not be any new federal mandates eliminating backyard barbecues or requiring carpooling. These kinds of claims are merely scare tactics designed to shift the debate away from the critical, complex public health issues we are attempting to address.
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding these hearings. The issues we are discussing today are critical to the state of the Nation's public health and environment. It is imperative that the American public understand these important issues. In that regard, I am disappointed that some have chosen to distort this important discussion by raising distracting and misleading pseudo issues like "junk science" and "banning backyard barbecues." I am hopeful that this and other hearings and public forums will help focus the national debate on the real health and environmental policy implications of these national air quality standards.
In the Clean Air Act, the Congress has given me the responsibility to review every five years the most recent science to determine whether revisions to national air quality standards are warranted. In doing so, the law tells me to protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety.
We are constantly reviewing the science associated with these standards, but we do not often propose revisions to them. I have done so in the case of ozone and particulate matter because of compelling new scientific evidence. For the past three and a half years we have targeted our resources to conduct a thorough, intensive review of this scientific evidence. The scope and depth of this review process has been based on unprecedented external peer review activities.
Given the sensitive populations affected by these pollutants -- children, asthmatics, the elderly -- as well as possible effects on outdoor workers and other healthy adults, it was my judgment that it was appropriate to propose standards that tended to fall in the lower end of the range of protection supported by my independent science advisors and recommended by experts in my technical offices. Based on the record before the Agency at the time of proposal, including the advice and recommendations of the CASAC panels, I concluded -- subject to further consideration based on public comments -- that the proposed standards were both necessary and sufficient to protect the public health, including sensitive populations, with an adequate margin of safety.
At the same time, I recognize that the proposed standards involve issues of great complexity and I look forward to receiving a broad range of comments from all affected and interested parties. As I have described, we have gone to unprecedented lengths to provide the public with opportunities to express their views on the proposed standards. We have also expressly requested comments on options (including alternative levels and forms of the standards) that are both more protective and less protective than the levels we proposed.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my written statement. I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have.