Testimony of Beverly Hartsock
Deputy Director for Policy and Regulatory Development
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
before the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
April 24, 1997

Good morning, Chairman Inhofe and members of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. My name is Beverly Hartsock. I serve as the head of the Office of Policy and Regulatory Development of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). I am pleased to be here today to address the issue of implementing the proposed new national ambient air quality standards.

As you are probably aware, there have been a significant number of concerns raised including some by former chairs of U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) in their recent testimony before a congressional committee questioning the scientific basis of EPA's proposed new air standards for ozone and particulate matter. The lack of a clear scientific basis for the levels and forms of these proposals was reflected in CASAC's closure letters to EPA on both proposals. Based on this lack of a clear "bright line" for either proposal and recent risk analysis information that indicates for some areas (Houston and Los Angeles) the current one hour ozone standard is more protective than the proposed eight hour standard, the TNRCC submitted comments supporting the retention of both the existing ozone and particulate matter standards until the science to support any changes is more definitive. Attached is a letter to Ms. Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator, from Governor Bush addressing the recent national air quality proposals. Also attached are comments from the TNRCC to EPA on the proposed revisions to the ozone standards and the particulate matter standards.

From a state regulator's standpoint, I think it's important to recognize that just adopting a new standard does not result in improving air quality. Programs must be developed to implement a new standard, and that's what my agency is expected to do. Someone must analyze current situations, understand as best possible what is causing problems that are detected, and design new programs to reduce those emissions that are significantly contributing to the problem. Those programs must maximize cost- effectiveness and sustainable development and must be phased in over a timeframe commensurate with minimizing excess cost and disruption. Progress achieved toward meeting the air quality goals established must be carefully monitored and analyzed so that mid-course corrections can be made based on actual results.

This is not a unique set of planning activities. Many programs incorporate similar steps. What is unique about air pollution control is the number of emission sources, the chemistry involved in determining cause and effect, and the meteorological variation that is inherent in the earth's weather patterns.

Chemical compounds are emitted into the air constantly from both man-made and natural sources. Some are harmless,~ some can be lethal. Typically, air contaminants are invisible to the naked eye. They evaporate off houses being painted, from car gas tanks being refilled, from inks drying on paper; they come from valves and pumps along piping in chemical plants, from stacks at power plants, from leaves of trees. These are but a few examples of the thousands of activities going on every day that generate air contaminants. To understand how to solve the problem of excess contaminants measured at a monitor site, we must understand not only what is being added to the air and where, but also take into account naturally occurring or background levels that in many areas are routinely 25% to 50% of the standard. Since we can't readily see the emissions, we must estimate what's happening. We require tests of emissions at large industrial plants, we require production records at small businesses, and we use formulas to guess how much is coming from cars, equipment use, consumer product use, and natural events. As you can imagine, this is an imprecise science at best, but we call it the development of an emissions inventory for an area. Gathering the data and performing necessary calculations are extremely time-consuming for businesses as well as state regulatory agencies, but are necessary. The emissions inventory is the basis for estimating how much reduction is needed to solve a problem and which types of activities are candidates for additional controls.

But all this assumes that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Let's take a step back and look at how that is decided. Air contaminant monitor stations are dotted around the country. These stations are primarily focused in urban areas so we can know the quality of the air large concentrations of people are breathing. The stations are equipped with several different instruments since it takes different kinds of monitors to detect different kinds of pollutants. Thus, an ozone monitor only monitors for ozone and can't detect fine particulate matter or sulfur dioxide emissions. That requires installation of two additional monitors. The measurements made at these monitors are checked against the levels set by EPA as national standards. If monitored levels are higher than allowed, then the area is designated nonattainment. Nonattainment designation is a formal legal process including state proposals and EPA approval of designated areas. For each nonattainment area, a plan, called a State Implementation Plan, must be developed which identifies and enforceably commits the state to implement new controls on defined sources within established deadlines. Such controls can include vapor recovery at gasoline stations or marine terminals, incineration of process vent gases, use of low solvent inks, vehicle inspection and maintenance, etc.

EPA has only set a handful of national standards but one of them has been particularly difficult to attain - ozone. It's a tough standard allowing as little as four hours of measurements over the standard in a three-year period of time. Many of the country's large urban areas, including four in Texas - Houston/Galveston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Beaumont/Port Arthur, and El Paso - have not yet met this standard. The new standard proposed by EPA is even more stringent. In Texas, cities like San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Longview/Marshall/Tyler, and Victoria would likely be declared nonattainment. Additional monitoring will be needed to determine the size of the new nonattainment areas, the amount of the chemical precursors in the air, and the amount of pollutant being transported into the area from neighboring areas. Planning and control program development for these new areas would also have to begin intensively if we are to meet the kind of time tables and deadlines set by the Clean Air Act and EPA. This effort will be costly and could easily serve to distract us from solving the most serious of our problems - the areas currently identified as nonattainment. It should also be noted that EPA has not proposed any funding to cover the costs.

Adoption of standards for new pollutants such as EPA has proposed with the fine particulate matter standard brings with it even greater challenges for state air regulators. As I previously mentioned, each pollutant requires its own kind of monitor. We haven't had any PM-2.5 monitors in the field since the mid-1980s. We're scrambling now to buy and begin operating some monitors, but it will be quite a while before we have the data we'll need to assess our status relative to the proposed new standard. EPA plans to allow states three years to install and begin operating all the monitors. This is needed because of the high cost of monitoring - for Texas, we estimate $1.3 million for FY 1998, $1.8 million for FY 1999, and $1.9 million for FY 2000 - and to allow equipment manufacturers and monitoring agencies time to prepare for this onslaught of new monitoring. Since more than one year of data will be needed to understand annual weather variability and to judge against the three-year average basis that is the form of the proposed EPA standard, it will be from three to six years before we have a really good feel for how many areas of the country have air quality that doesn't meet this proposed new national standard.

Once we know where additional air quality improvements are needed, we have to understand the causes of the problem. Although there are many similarities among cities, each problem is somewhat unique and solutions will be dependent upon understanding the broad principles of air pollution and the factors unique to that area. One of the main reasons that solving our country's ozone problems has proven so difficult is that ozone is created in the air by a chemical combination of other pollutants. Trying to regulate this giant atmospheric chemistry lab that is occurring over each of our cities is taxing the limits of our scientific understanding. The variables are many and the solutions are complex. We cannot change how fast the wind blows or how much sunlight there is on a given day. Instead, we have to estimate how much emissions can be in the air from all sources - man-made or natural, industrial or personal activities - we have to assume the worst weather conditions - usually for my part of the country that means a series of hot, still days - and assess what emissions can be allowed without triggering enough of the chemical reactions to cause ozone to form at levels over the standard. Complex models have been designed to assist, but it often feels more like art than science when we try to perform these regulatory analyses. This type of analysis is very resource intensive and often frustrating, providing less than definitive answers. And keep in mind, the results of this work are the basis for requiring new control programs that can cost billions of dollars.

We can look at the work that has been undertaken by the Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG) as an example of the complexity of understanding ozone formation. OTAG has been studying air pollution transport over the 37 states in the eastern half of the U.S. for the last two years. The work has focused on identifying how much of the man-made and natural emissions in one area are blown to another area and how this impacts high ozone levels monitored in the mid-west, northeast and Atlanta. Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen react in the presence of sunlight. There are many man-made sources of each of these types of pollutants but naturally occurring sources (primarily trees) are also an important source of organic compounds and contribute significantly to the formation of ozone. The reactions that create ozone also reverse to breakdown ozone that has been formed, so understanding the concentrations of each type of pollutant as it is being blown from one area to another is significant. With the lack of rural monitors in most areas of the country, all these analyses are computer simulated projections based primarily on meteorological data and monitored data from urban areas. Needless to say, the results are open to a lot of debate. Millions of dollars have been spent in the OTAG effort, and only four high ozone episodes have been studied. It is reasonable to estimate that similar investments will be needed to study each of our problem areas.

The proposed new fine particle standard will also require significant additional work. Once we know how much fine particulate matter is measured in each of our cities, we'll know if those cities are in attainment of the standard. But this is only the beginning of understanding what to do if they are not in attainment. We will also need to analyze the separate components of the particulate on the filters to know what chemicals are causing the problem. Knowing the chemical constituents of the fine particulate will help us to trace those chemicals back to their sources. This analysis will be crucial to understanding how to solve the problems, but just knowing chemical constituents doesn't completely define the controls needed. It tells you what types of sources are the biggest contributors to the problem. Analysis of possible control options can be targeted to these type sources. This additional chemical analysis of the particulate to determine its components further adds to the costs of the monitoring significantly. Further, these costs will continue beyond the initial start-up as long as the particulate monitoring is needed. These monitoring and chemical analysis costs are in effect additional unfunded mandates on the states because EPA has not proposed adequate funding.

Analysis must not only be directed at what is likely to be causing the problem but also to what can be changed that would help solve the problem. For example, knowing that organic compounds are naturally emitted by trees helps you to understand more about the atmospheric chemical reactions, but doesn't give you any information on how to solve the ozone problem. However, knowing that organic compounds that evaporate from oil-based paints are a part of the ozone formation process leads you to examine the feasibility for phasing out oil-based paints and replacing these with latex paints. This example also illustrates another part of the control program evaluation. Timing is a key ingredient to establishing a good control program. The phase-out of oil-based paints, if allowed to occur over a number of years and with a limited number of exceptions, can be a smooth transition to a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable way of life. If done overnight or without necessary flexibility it can put companies out of business and leave citizens unable to satis~fy their needs and unhappy with the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of government programs. Traditional controls have focused on large industry; new controls will have to focus more and more on small businesses. We must take all steps possible to minimize the negative effects on our small business community.

The need to allow sufficient time to phase in controls is especially important when we look at programs to reduce emissions from the transportation sector - emissions that occur as we move ourselves or our products from place to place. Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the EPA Office of Mobile Sources summarize their current and planned programs. Included were new car improvements like lower tail pipe emissions, on-board canisters to trap fueling emissions, and on-board diagnostics to alert car owners of system failures that could increase emissions and impair efficient vehicle operation. Also discussed were improved diesel engines for construction and farm equipment, lower emitting locomotive engines, improved small engines for lawn and garden use, and cleaner burning diesel and gasoline fuels. All of these programs, most of which are required under the current Clean Air Act, have been set in place but will require several years for equipment replacement to realize actual benefits. In fact, EPA estimated that significant benefits from these programs would not be seen until 2000 and the full benefits not realized until 2020. In order to maximize the use of these programs, we must be mindful to set timeframes for accomplishing our air quality goals that match the time needed to realize the reductions from these long-term programs.

Timing is not just critical as it relates to the implementation of controls but also in proper planning. As noted earlier, it will be three to six years before we have good data on levels of fine particulate matter. Even for ozone where current data is much more complete, we will need to study rural levels of this pollutant to know what's being transported from one area to another. Analysis of the causes of the problems can be undertaken even as the monitoring data is being gathered. But once control measure options are identified, there must be a public process to decide the most appropriate controls to impose. This type of public process includes meetings and hearings with local planning organizations, citizens, affected businesses, and all levels of elected officials and government. Typically, these public processes take up to 18 months. After the best control options have been selected, time must be allowed for companies to install equipment, cities to make transportation system changes, and new products to be developed. The simplest of such controls can be implemented in one year; the more extensive industrial controls require up to three years for installation during process turnarounds. As previously discussed, transportation controls and new products can take up to ten years or more to implement completely. After controls are in place, air must be monitored to see the results of these efforts. Depending on the standard, up to three years may be needed to measure the effects of new controls.

The planning timeframes provided by the Clean Air Act and traditional EPA guidance documents typically allow only five years to accomplish all of the above activities. Our experience shows that ten years is a more reasonable planning cycle and that the more difficult air pollution. problem areas will take two or more planning cycles.

Looking for new ways to do things and learning from our experiences will be particularly important if EPA adopts new or more stringent standards. EPA set up the Federal Clean Air Act Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Ozone, Particulate Matter and Regional Haze Implementation. The charge to this group of almost 80 representatives of business, government, environmental groups, and academia was to develop recommendations to EPA on how to smoothly transition from the current requirements to new approaches. The challenge is to not lose the momentum that we have built as we have made substantial improvements in air quality with existing programs. But, as so many have stated, traditional regulatory programs are unlikely to be able to meet the challenges of new higher standards or even to solve the persistent problems we already have identified. New approaches must be used to harness economic forces to work in concert with regulatory efforts to address environmental protection. New ideas such as identifying areas of violation and areas of influence must be explored rather than just expecting each nonattainment area to solve its own problems in isolation from all else going on around its geographic boundaries. We must also explore ways to provide incentives for areas to expand monitoring, to do early planning, and to implement controls voluntarily before they become required. Current law has clearly outlined negative consequences for failure to plan or implement programs but does little to provide incentives for early or voluntary action.

In summary, there are five points regarding implementation of national air quality standards that I would like to leave with you. First, we do not believe that new national standards should be set until there is a firmer scientific basis. The recently released studies of health effects of ozone estimate fewer benefits from the proposed standard than previously thought. The particulate matter studies have raised as many questions as they have provided answers. Additional research is needed to target the cause of the particulate matter impacts on public health.

Second, if new standards are adopted, extensive new work will be needed to implement them and it appears likely that there will be little additional funding from EPA. States do not need another unfunded mandate.

Third, we should explore ways for air pollution planning to be a part of a city's urban planning whether or not new national standards are adopted that cause the city to be designated nonattainment. New approaches should build on voluntary action programs such as the Flexible Attainment Region approach being used in Tulsa, Longview/Marshall/Tyler, and Corpus Christi. Incentives for early planning, expanded monitoring, and voluntary or early reductions should be provided in EPA guidance and any new statutory revisions.

Fourth, adequate time should be provided to allow areas to plan, implement controls, and measure the results of those controls. The five-year timeframes of  172 allow for planning and implementation but fail to recognize the need to monitor results and that some areas have inadequate data bases upon which to begin their planning. Longer term planning cycles should include mid-course corrections so that new information is used to improve imprecise predictions of growth and emissions changes that will theoretically occur in the future.

Finally, adequate time must be provided to allow major trends such as those happening in the transportation sector to be a significant contributor to attaining national air quality goals. In order for the country to be able to afford all that is likely to be required to meet all of our air quality goals, we must allow time. Allowing time for market forces, technological development, and corporate economic planning will minimize costs of accomplishing the reductions and spread those costs as with other prudent investments in our future.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these comments. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have or to provide additional information that you would like to assist you in your review of these issues.