The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new air quality standards within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion, down from the current 75 ppb level, to “better protect the health” of Americans.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the EPA is taking comment on a 60 ppb standard.
“While there’s more uncertainty with the science at that level, I’m very mindful that my science advisers have indicated that it should be on the table,” she said on Wednesday.
McCarthy estimates that meeting a 70 ppb level would prevent 330 missed school days, 32,000 asthma attacks and 750 premature deaths per year. She said those benefits would increase with a 65 ppb standard.
“Our review of the ozone standards has been exhaustive, open and transparent. EPA has examined thousands of scientific studies including more than 1,000 new studies that have been published since EPA last revised the standards in 2008 and based on the law and based on thorough review of that science, based on the recommendations of the agency’s independent science advisers, based on the assessments of EPA scientists and technical experts, and also based on my judgment as the EPA administrator, I’m proposing to increase the standards to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion to better protect Americans’ health,” McCarthy said.
“This is a proposal, so taking comment on a range of different outcomes is exactly how we’re supposed to do it and I’m excited to get moving with that comment process because the conversation isn’t over,” she added.
McCarthy was asked why she did not propose the 60 ppb level instead.
“The proposal does ask for comment on the full range I recommended which is 60-70 ppb,” she said. “My sense was after looking at all of the science, my judgment was that the upper part of the range was where I would recommend our focus at this time although considering down to 60 because I believe that there was more level of uncertainty at that lower boundary.”
The EPA has also proposed extending the “ozone monitoring season” for 33 states, which would alert the public when ozone reaches unhealthy levels.
“The result of being exposed to too much ozone can be disruptive, expensive, frightening and tragic. It can cause us to miss work or school, use medicine more often, send us to the hospital or lead to premature death — but the good news is stronger standards better protect children and families from ozone pollution, which means that kids can grow up healthier and their parents and grandparents can live longer and healthier lives as well,” McCarthy said.
The comment period will be 90 days once the proposal is posted in the Federal Register.
The National Association of Manufacturers has estimated that a tougher national ambient air quality standard for ozone could cost the American economy up to $270 billion each year. A report from the association on July 31 said a standard of 60 ppb could result in the closure of one-third of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
McCarthy did not directly address the economic impacts of the standard during a conference call on Wednesday.
PJ Media asked the EPA how the standards would impact the coal industry, in particular. The EPA’s spokesperson responded with a document that said since 1970 the EPA has “cut harmful air pollution by about 70% while the US economy has more than tripled.” According to the EPA, a 70 ppb standard has economic benefits of $6.4-13 billion per year starting in 2025, which outweighs the estimated cost of $3.9 billion.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement that the proposed rule “may be premature.”
“Because of recent federal pollution-control rules reducing ozone-causing pollutants—which I have consistently supported—our air is significantly cleaner and healthier,” Alexander said. “It may be wiser to let these existing rules continue to make our air cleaner and then let’s see whether stricter ozone standards for communities, like the one proposed today, are really needed.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called the rule “more proof the Obama Administration is turning a deaf ear to Americans who want Washington to focus on job creation.”
“Once again, the EPA is completely ignoring the very serious health impacts of unemployment that will result because of its rule,” said Barrasso, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.
“As I’ve said before, the two months after the election will set the tone of the next two years. The Obama administration continues to push policies that are not supported by the American people. In January, Republicans in Congress will listen to Americans and focus on their priorities. We’ll do everything possible to stop this regulation and help Americans have better job opportunities.”