United States Senate
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety
March 3, 1997
Testimony by State of Ohio Lieutenant Governor Nancy P. Hollister
Regarding U.S. EPA's Proposed Ozone and Particulate Standards

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am Nancy Hollister, Lieutenant Governor for the State of Ohio. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about what I believe to be the most significant environmental policy issue facing Ohio today: U.S. EPA's proposal to tighten the national standards for ozone and particulate matter.

First, I would like to share some background information with you about U.S. EPA's proposal impact on Ohio and give you a sense of what our state faces if these new standards are finalized as presented. While expansion of the controversial vehicle emission testing program will probably cause the most call to elected officials, I believe it is important for this committee to understand that the ramifications of this proposal are far broader and potentially far costlier than just expanding automobile testing.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, U.S. EPA set health-based standards for six major pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, ozone and lead. The Clean Air Act requires U.S. EPA to re-evaluate these standards every five years. As recently as 1993, U.S. EPA announced that revisions to the ozone standard were not appropriate.

Ohio has worked hard to meet the current ozone standard. In, 1993, there were four major metropolitan areas in Ohio designated as "moderate" nonattainment for ozone (Cleveland-Akron, Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo) and three areas designated as "marginal" nonattainment (Columbus, Youngstown and Canton). Ohio Implemented an aggressive program to reduce the emissions that cause ozone, including enhanced auto emission testing in 14 counties; industrial controls; and mandatory vapor recovery systems on gasoline pump nozzles. Thanks to these and other voluntary efforts, today, only four of 88 counties in the state in the Cincinnati area remains nonattainment for ozone.

U.S. EPA's recent proposal makes the ozone standard more stringent and changes in the way we measure violations of the standard. U.S. EPA's proposal to tighten the ozone standard would send not only the seven urban areas I just mentioned back into nonattainment, but we predict that a total of at least 32 additional counties would also face nonattainment status. In fact, based on the previous three years readings, every single air monitor in Ohio would show exceedances of the new standard. I am the former Mayor of the City of Marietta. Marietta is located in the southeastern Ohio and has a population of 15,026 in a county with a total population of 62,254. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency operates an ozone monitor in the City of Marietta and the monitor does not meet the proposed standards, which would mean even areas with these small populations would face nonattainment status and the subsequent control strategies. For these nonattainment areas, this would mean expansion of vehicle emission testing; mandatory clean fuels; additional controls on industries and utilities; reformulated consumer products such as paint and aerosols; and higher prices for lawn mowers and leaf blowers with cleaner burning engines. Mandatory car-pooling and restrictions on barbecue grills have also been mentioned as possible ozone control measures, but I hope we don't have the resort to that in Ohio.

Another large concern for Ohio is the effect of the nonattainment designation on industrial growth. Since virtually every urban area in Ohio will be nonattainment, the ability for these areas to attract new or expansion of existing industry will be greatly diminished. One only needs to look at the construction of many of the new automobile assembly plants in the Midwest to see that the majority were constructed in attainment areas outside of the cities further contributing to urban sprawl. U.S. EPA actions will only further accelerate the trend of urban sprawl.

The proposed federal particulate standard is another subject of debate in Ohio. Current regulations apply to particles that are 10 microns and smaller. There are only two counties in Ohio Jefferson and Cuyahoga that don't attain the current PM10 standard. The existing PM10 standard for larger particles will still be in effect, however, this rule-making actually relaxes the PM10 standard. In addition, U.S. EPA is proposing to create a standard that will regulate a new pollutant very fine particles known as PM2.5.

Unfortunately, I can't offer the same details about the scope of the nonattainment area for PM2.5. There is no state or national air monitoring network for PM2.5. U.S. EPA estimated that 21 Ohio counties would not attain the standard for the finer particulates. And if you're thinking that only urban areas would be affected, listen to some of the counties on U.S. EPA's list for particulates: Noble County, with a population of about 11,000; Wyandot County, population 22,000; and Sandusky County, population 62,000. Quiet honestly, we have no idea how U.S. EPA came up with that list; we do know they admit that the list is subject to "significant uncertainty."

It is possible that many of the control programs we would implement to comply with the new ozone standard could help with meeting the fine particulate standard. It appears that coal-fired utilities may be affected the most, but because we know so little about the makeup of PM2.5, we may have to start regulating a universe of activities that we haven't even considered yet. However, all activities that contribute to the generation of fine dust are potential sources needing control including road dust, woodburning fireplaces, agricultural activities and virtually all manufacturing processes. Our preliminary estimate is that compliance cost for the new particulate standard will be on the order of 2 billion dollars.

U.S. EPA's decision to combine the ozone and particulate standard review into one rule-making is significant. While we believe there are problems with the scientific basis behind the changes to both standards, U.S. EPA's own documents show that the costs of meeting the new ozone standard may exceed the benefits expected. U.S. EPA appears to be relying on benefits from the new particulate standard to justify the cost of the ozone standard. Not only do I believe that U.S. EPA seriously underestimated the cost of attaining both standards, but our review of this proposal raises serious doubts about the projected health benefits.

Let me briefly explain the problems we've identified with each proposed standard. I'll start with ozone. We agree with U.S. EPA's science advisors that the more stringent ozone standard will not significantly improve public health. One of the principle health studies that U.S. EPA used to calculate health benefits found that if compliance with the proposed ozone standard is achieved, there would be a reduction of less than one percent in the hospital visits per year in the New York City area for asthma related illnesses.

Furthermore, U.S. EPA recognizes that some area in this country have been unable to achieve the existing ozone standard and still more areas would find it impossible to achieve the new standard. In fact, EPA estimates that 53 million people would end up living in areas where attaining the new ozone standard and thus realizing all of the health benefits would be virtually impossible. We believe that it may be even worse: even more areas than projected won't be able to comply with the ozone standard. We would need a major program to control emissions for utilities and other combustion sources through the entire eastern United States, and Ohio would have to implement every conceivable control measure from enhanced automobile testing to controls on industry and more expensive fuels. Even then, many of Ohio's urban areas may not be able to attain the proposed ozone standard.

While my primary concern with U.S. EPA's proposed ozone standard is the lake of public health benefit, I also want to draw your attention to plans in U.S. EPA's cost estimates. U.S. EPA estimated the national cost of partial attainment to be as much as 0.6 billion dollars annually. However, U.S. EPA assumed that states like Ohio would already be spending billions of dollars in new controls to help the Northeast states in the Ozone Transport Commission to meet the existing ozone standard, so the costs of those controls were not included in the estimate for the revised ozone standard. We estimate the cost for Ohio, alone, for partial attainment to be 0.76 billion dollars per year.

I also wanted to address direct cost to state and local government of U.S. EPA's proposal. There are many universities, health and correctional facilities that burn coal in boilers to supply heat or power. In Ohio, we estimate that there are approximately 13 such facilities with 34 boilers that would be subject to the new standards. Under the U.S. EPA proposal for ozone, it is likely that nitrogen oxides emissions will need to be reduced. For fine particulate, increased collection of particulate matter will be necessary. For this type of installation, we estimate the capital cost for a typical facility to be $700,000, not including operating cost. Although faced with these additional costs, many facilities will choose to convert to higher priced natural gas. This wastes valuable capital that was expended on the original installation and will increase operating costs. These are real costs that will be expended on additional controls instead of these resources being directed to the main function of these institutions.

Let me now turn to the particulate standard. I can summarized my concerns about U.S. EPA's proposal to create a fine particulate standard with three words: lack of data. As I mentioned earlier, U.S. EPA is relying on projected health benefits of the proposed particulate standard to justify the cost of both standards. There have been a number of scientific studies which show a link between air pollution and significant respiratory and cardiovascular-related effects. However, U.S. EPA has not been able to establish a direct link between fine particulate and those health problems. I am concerned that we may spend billions of dollars to comply with a new particulate standard in Ohio only to find after more scientific research that we were going after the wrong pollutant. The public soon loses faith in government's credibility when public health scares turns out to be unjustified. Even U.S. EPA recognizes the need for more research for particulate matter. The President's budget for federal fiscal year 1998 requests 26.4 million dollars, a 37 percent increase, to fund studies to determine the link between particulate matter and health effects. This request is indicative to the weakness of the current proposal and that U.S. EPA should await the results of this effort before promulgating a new standard. I would urge U.S. EPA to develop a comprehensive program that includes further scientific research on health effects, additional monitoring of air quality and allow for adequate time for public review and comment on the health effects research before proceeding with a change to this standard.

I hope I have given you sense of the problem we see with U.S. EPA's proposal. I would like to conclude with some thoughts about immediate and long-term solutions to improving the air quality standard setting process in this country.

The short-term problem is that U.S. EPA gave interested parties only 60 days to comment on this proposal. Ohio did all it could to fully understand the impact of this rule, but 60 days is just not enough time to thoroughly review more than 1,000 pages of rules plus thousand of technical supporting documents. Governor George Voinovich of Ohio and a number of other elected officials requests additional time to review the proposal, and U.S. EPA requested from the federal court with jurisdiction over this case for the additional time. Unfortunately, the judge only allowed an additional 21 days, which remains an insufficient time. Many of Ohio's state departments are preparing formal responses to U.S. EPA's dockets on this matter. When they are finalized, I would also like to submit a set to your record.

In the long run, I believe states will find relief only through Congressional action. William Ruckelshaus, a former U.S. EPA Administration official, has said the Clean Air Act created "an impossible standard of perfection." I do not advocate a rollback of the public health protections many of our environmental laws have produced. However, 30 years of science and experience has taught us that a "zero risk" standard is not possible. The Clean Air Act needs to be updated to reflect this knowledge and to create a regulatory system which maximizes public resources for maximum public benefit.

In addition to developing more reasonable goals for setting clean are standards, Congress also needs to incorporate a requirement that a comprehensive, cost-benefit analysis be made part of the standard setting process. Today, the Clean Air Act does not allow U.S. EPA to consider cost when setting standards. The only reason U.S. EPA has done any type of cost benefit analysis with this rule-making is because Congress passed the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act last year requiring such an analysis on major rules which affect small businesses. By U.S. EPA's own estimate, the cost of compliance with these standards is on the order of 6-8 billion dollars a year. That raises the estimated cost of the entire Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 by almost a third.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.