Democratic governors back tighter ozone standard 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Five Democratic governors Friday called on U.S. EPA to follow the advice of its scientific advisory panel and lower the limit for ground-level ozone.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the governors warned of potential adverse health effects linked to ozone levels above the current limit of 75 parts per billion. They also disputed arguments made by industry and GOP critics that a tighter ozone standard would lead to burdensome compliance costs.

“The 2008 primary ozone standard is inadequate to protect public health,” the governors wrote. “We urge you to finalize the proposed ozone standards in a timely manner that reflects sound science and settled law.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hasson, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the letter.

In November, EPA proposed to tighten the 75-ppb limit to between 65 and 70 ppb, finding after a review of scientific data that a more stringent standard was needed to protect against negative health effects linked to ozone pollution. Ground level ozone is a key component of smog formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight.

EPA is under an Oct. 1 court-ordered deadline to choose a final standard.

The agency’s Clean Air Act Scientific Advisory Committee recommended, however, that the agency go lower with the standard and set it between 60 and 70 ppb, cautioning that the upper range may not be adequate enough to protect public health as the Clean Air Act requires.

“Air quality has improved markedly under the existing framework of the Clean Air Act,” the governors wrote. “Nevertheless, the science clearly demonstrates that adverse health impacts continue to occur at current ozone levels.”

Industry groups and many Republican lawmakers have put up a fierce battle against a tighter ozone standard, raising concerns both about the science backing EPA’s proposal and the potential costs of putting in place new pollution controls to comply with a tighter standard.

In March, 11 Republican governors wrote a letter to EPA urging the agency to retain the existing standard.

“It goes without saying that most cities and counties have no chance of attaining” EPA’s proposed range, the governors of Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin wrote in their letter (E&E Daily, March 17).

The coalition of five Democratic governors pushed back against cost concerns, arguing that the Clean Air Act has generated “trillions of dollars in economic benefits” to the United States throughout its 45-year history.

“Compliance with national ambient air quality standards has consistently proven less costly and more beneficial than either its critics or supporters predicted,” the Democratic governors wrote. “The health and environmental benefits associated with cleaner air continue to outweigh the costs of achieving those standards.”