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Public Comments on

National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone

EPA-HQ-OAR-28-0699

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

By Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D.

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Washington, D.C. January 29, 2015

These comments are in response to EPA’s December 17, 2014 proposal to lower the nation’s current (2008) ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 70 to 65 ppb, and perhaps even as stringent as 60 ppb.

After promulgation of the current ozone standard in 2008, EPA, two years later, called a temporary halt to the nationwide implementation of the standard in response to the severe recession prevailing at the time. Now, EPA is proposing a new, more stringent standard even before the current standard has been fully implemented, and even though, according to EPA’s on data, ozone concentrations have declined by 33 percent since 1980.

Disparate Impact on Low-Income Communities

While there has been a robust economic recovery in certain parts of the country, led by oil and natural gas exploration in Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, other sections of the nation, primarily inner cities, are still afflicted with high levels of unemployment. The uneven recovery means that residents of areas still mired in recession-like conditions will bear the brunt of the burden the proposed, more stringent ozone standard will impose on their communities. Because EPA’s new standard will create nonattainment areas under the Clean Air Act (CAA) which could easily encompass two-thirds or more of the country, low-income areas will be disproportionately affected by EPA’s action.

As EPA well knows, its new ozone standard will push many metropolitan areas out of compliance with the CAA, forcing their respective state governments to develop State Implementation Plans (SIPs), which must be approved by EPA. Businesses, including manufacturers, located in nonattainment areas will have to purchase new equipment and apply for new permits.

Effect on Infrastructure Projects

In addition, many local governments in nonattainment areas faced with addressing serious infrastructure challenges, including upgrading roads, bridges, and tunnels, will find themselves unable to serve their constituents’ needs, because the construction, and the emissions resulting therefrom, will be incompatible with the state’s SIP.

There is a complete disconnect between EPA’s proposed ozone standard and President Obama’s plans, put forward in his FY 2016 budget proposal, “to make bridges, transit systems, and freight networks as part of a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization.” The scores of new nonattainment areas EPA’s ozone standard will create will not be able to participate in the vast infrastructure program the president has proposed due to the restrictions contained in the SIPs under which they must operate.

Missing CASAC Evaluation

Finally, the CAA requires EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) to produce an evaluation of the adverse effects, including economic impact, of obtaining and maintaining a tighter standard. Despite repeated requests from Congress, CASAC has not produced the legally required evaluation. By ignoring this statutory mandate, and moving ahead with its ozone rulemaking, EPA is showing contempt for the rule of law and for the taxpayers who provide the agency’s funding.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D.

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Washington, D.C.

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