The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power recently held a hearing to examine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to strengthen the ozone air quality standards. Issued Nov. 25, 2014, the proposed regulations would tighten the level of the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) from its current level of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a level between 65 and 70 ppb. Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of Air and Radiation, spoke on behalf of the EPA.
During the hearing, members questioned McCabe about the costs and benefits of tightening the standards. Several members pointed out that many states and local governments are still working to comply with the 75 ppb level of 2008. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., accused the EPA of “changing the rules on the fly” and argued that the potential health benefits would not outweigh the costs to businesses and individuals. He also argued that the EPA disregarded achievability when formulating the new standard.
Members in favor of the standard change stressed that health and safety needs to remain the primary consideration. In his opening statement, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., ranking member, said, “The EPA’s decision is fully consistent with the law and the scientific evidence, and there are a litany of adverse health impacts that will be avoided with the stronger standard – nearly a million asthma attacks in children, millions of missed school days and thousands of premature deaths. The EPA’s ozone standard is long overdue.”
In defense of the EPA’s proposal, McCabe said, “Because the air we breathe is so important to our overall health and well-being, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review the NAAQS every five years to make sure that they continue to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. The administrator’s proposal to strengthen the standards is designed to better protect children and families from the health effects of ozone pollution.”
The subcommittee met again on June 16th to discuss the potential impacts of the revised standard on jobs and manufacturing.