On Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final version of new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The new rule tightened the previous standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. On Oct. 22nd, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing titled, “EPA’s 2015 Ozone Standard: Concerns Over Science and Implementation.”
During the hearing, members questioned the panel on the costs and benefits of the stricter standard. Witnesses included the Hon. Jeffrey Holmstead, former assistant administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Air and Radiation; Seyed Sadredin, executive director and air pollution control officer, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; Dr. Elena Craft, senior health scientist, Environmental Defense Fund; and Dr. Michael Honeycutt, director, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Toxicology Division.
Throughout the hearing, the question followed two lines of thought. Republican members questioned the science behind the new ruling and raised concerns about the impact on American industries. Sadredin explained that to reach full compliance within the given time frame, the EPA would have to completely ban all use of fossil fuel combustion. Holmstead echoed Sadredin’s remarks and said that in the more environmentally conscious states such as California, the costs of manufacturing have made it nearly impossible for many businesses to develop and grow.
“Across the country, ozone levels and emissions for volatile organic compounds have been reduced significantly over the past few decades …,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. “Despite this, it is concerning that the EPA is proposing to tighten the standard … the existing standard set in 2008 has yet to be fully implemented, and the guidance for state implementation plans was only released this past February by the EPA. States must be given a chance to comply with the existing standard before being imposed by another onerous set of standards that are not achievable.”
Meanwhile, most Democratic members expressed support for the new rule, as well as the potential health and environmental benefits. In her opening statement, ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said, “While the new rule is not as ambitious as health professionals had hoped for, it will still have real and meaningful positive impact on the health of all Americans … Time and time again, the evidence shows that, on balance, jobs are created and the economy expands following the passage of major environmental reform.”