FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Kristina Baum (EPW) – 202.224.6176
Donelle Harder (EPW) – 202.224.4721
Inhofe Statement on EPA’s Final Ozone Rule
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for Ground-Level Ozone from the current 75 ppb to 70 ppb:
“EPA’s decision to restrict the ozone standard to 70 ppb is yet another example of the Obama administration’s enthusiasm for needless regulation,” Inhofe said. “Since 1980, we have cut ozone-forming emissions by half, and the trend would have continued without setting a new standard. This progress is even clear in my state of Oklahoma who will remain in attainment under the new standard. I have always been in favor of cleaner air, as I was an original cosponsor of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and the Clear Skies Act of 2003. But this new rule is now going after near background ozone levels, exhibiting a flippant disregard for rural and high-elevation communities that have no control over naturally occurring ground-level ozone. It will put 2,000 counties across the nation at risk of being in nonattainment, which will stall economic development and tie up much-needed federal highway dollars to improve crumbling bridges and unsafe roads. Our country should have been given the opportunity to fully meet the 2008 standard before implementing another frivolous and costly mandate. I will be pursuing legislation in my committee to push back on EPA and prevent red tape from continuing to run abound.”
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review NAAQS for the six criteria pollutants (ozone, lead, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter) “at least” every five years, but does not require any revision following the review. One year after the Bush administration lowered the ozone standard from 84 ppb to the current 75 ppb, the Obama administration announced its intention to initiate an off-cycle review of the standard.
In 2012, the administration abandoned the proposal due to its $90 billion price tag and the impending elections; this interference resulted in EPA missing implementation deadlines, which in turn delayed states’ ability to begin working towards the 2008 standard for four years.
Counties were given less than three years to meet the standard before the administration lowered it again. 227 counties out of the 232 that were designated as nonattainment still have not achieved it.
A nonattainment designation is the precursor to a legacy of EPA regulatory oversight. Communities will suffer severe economic penalties and regulations that restrict growth and job creation in local communities.
An additional consequence is the potential loss of federal highway and transit funds unless a community can demonstrate that a project will not increase ozone emissions.
While EPA claims only 358 counties across the country will be pushed out of attainment as a result of lowering the standard to 70ppb, this number only takes into consideration the areas EPA is currently monitoring. There are an additional 1,500 counties without monitors that are at risk of not meeting the new standard.
On Sept. 29, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled, “Economy-wide Implications of President Obama’s Air Agenda.” Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for the office of Air and Radiation at EPA, was the witness.
On June 3, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled, “Challenges and Implications of EPA’s Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ground-Level Ozone and Legislative Hearing on S. 638, S. 751, and S. 640.”
Inhofe was a co-sponsor of S. 638, which amends the Exceptional Events rule, which states rely on when events out of human control contribute to ozone readings exceeding the allowed level, S. 640, which extends EPA’s existing timeline to review NAAQS to every 10 years; and S. 751, which requires 85% of the 227 counties that are nonattainment be designated as meeting the standard before EPA lowers the standard.