EPA Tightens Ozone Air Pollution Standards

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Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will establish stricter air pollution standards for ground-level ozone pollution by lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.   

The new standard is directly aimed at reducing ozone emissions from U.S. petroleum refineries, electric power generation, and manufacturing plants. According to the EPA, the new standard will dramatically reduce Americans’ exposure to ozone, increasing U.S. public health benefits to $5.9 billion annually.

The revised standard comes after years of development. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to review and — if appropriate — revise the air quality criteria for the NAAQS every five years. In 2008, the EPA revised the ozone standards and also attempted to issue new standards in 2011 before abandoning the revision process due to significant political opposition.

In November 2014, the EPA proposed revising the national standard for ground-level ozone from the current 75 ppb to between 65 and 70 ppb. As part of the proposal, the EPA sought comment on whether to lower the level to 60 ppb — the threshold favored by environmental and public health advocates – and received about 430,000 written comments on the proposed standards.

Despite the perceived policy victory for environmentalists, the new standard is expected to receive legal challenges from environmental groups that advocated for a more stringent standard of 60 ppb as well as business representatives that lobbied to keep the current standard of 75 ppb.

The announcement comes after a number of other major federal policy and regulatory developments related to emissions, such as the Clean Power Plan, new oil and gas industry emissions standards, and executive actions on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Stay tuned to the Direct Energy Business Blog for the latest policy and regulatory developments. For related reading, check out this blog post on President Obama’s  recent energy actions.  

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