EPA to Defend Obama Ozone Rule

August 6, 2018

EPA will not reconsider its 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, according to a recent court filing. Instead, the Agency will defend the Obama-era rule in court. Ozone is a smog created by the mixture of emissions with heat and sunlight.

“While EPA officials in the current administration may have supported making different judgments about the significance of background concentrations of ozone and how to judge what standards are requisite to protect public health and welfare, the [A]gency at this time does not intend to revisit the 2015 rule,” government attorneys wrote in a filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The decision is surprising as EPA published a Federal Register Notice recently, seeking comment on whether the Agency should revisit the 2015 ozone standards. The Notice requested input on whether the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone sufficiently protect the environmental and/or hurts the economy.

Instead of revisiting the 2015 rule, EPA told the court that it would expedite its review of the 2020 NAAQS.  The Clean Air Act mandates that the Agency review NAAQS standards every five years.

The 2015 NAAQS for ozone was set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) during the Obama administration, and the previous level of 75 ppb level was established in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration.

Many areas of the country had not met the higher 75 ppb level when the Obama-era rule was promulgated. Under the NAAQS, states must develop and submit plans for “nonattainment areas” to meet the standards.

Manufacturing and business groups had argued that the 2015 ozone regulations would place much of the country in non-attainment, hurting heavy industry and stifling development.

After the decision was announced, National Association of Manufacturers Vice President for Energy and Natural Resources Ross Eisenberg stated, “The NAM is disappointed in EPA’s decision to not reconsider the 2015 ozone standard. The EPA made a series of procedural and technical errors when it generated the 2015 rule — including, for instance, evaluating the impacts of background ozone on attainment. Reconsideration of the 2015 standard was probably the most direct way to correct the record. These issues have not gone away, and now manufacturers must now grapple with them during implementation of the 2015 ozone NAAQS.”