New National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone: A Primer

by Robin Kundis Craig | October 07, 2015

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 7409. The new regulation reduces both the primary and secondary NAAQS for ozone from 0.075 to 0.070 parts per million (ppm) (or from 75 to 70 parts per billion) averaged over eight hours in order to better protect human health, welfare, and the environment. The new regulation has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but it is available from the EPA.

NAAQS are one of the Clean Air Act’s primary mechanisms for protecting human health and the environment from air pollution. Such protections begin with the EPA Administrator designating criteria pollutants—pollutants that, when emitted into the air, “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,” that come from numerous or diverse sources, and for which the Administrator expects to issue air quality criteria.  42 U.S.C. § 7408(a)(1). Ozone has been a criteria pollutant under the Clean Air Act since the beginning of the 1970 Act’s implementation.

Once the EPA establishes criteria pollutants, it must set primary and secondary NAAQS for each of them. Primary NAAQS reflect the level of ambient air quality “requisite to protect the public health,” while secondary NAAQS protect the public welfare. 42 U.S.C. § 7409(b)(1), (2). Reflecting increased understanding of ozone pollution’s ...

CPR's McGarity Responds to EPA's New Ozone Standard

by Thomas McGarity | October 01, 2015
The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far too long to make this much-needed change. We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite ...

EPA's Long-Delayed Ozone Proposal

by Rena Steinzor | November 26, 2014
How much is it worth to save the life of a grandfather with lung disease or to keep an asthmatic child out of the hospital?  The ozone rule, which EPA proposes today after years of politically motivated delay and while staring down the barrel of a court order, responds to the urgent calls of a gold-standard panel of scientists, who have been pleading with the agency to lower the existing standard of 75 parts per billion to the lower end of ...

Obama and Ozone: Executing Regulation by Presidential Order

by Rena Steinzor | October 06, 2011
The blog post was co-authored by Rena Steinzor and James Goodwin. When President Obama issued his new Executive Order 13563 this past January – the one calling on agencies to “look-back” at existing regulations –speculation abounded as to what, if any effect, it would have on agencies’ rulemaking. Setting aside the look-back plan provisions (and the President’s unproductive anti-regulation rhetoric in the Wall Street Journal), the new Order didn’t seem to add much to the 18-year-old Executive Order 12866, save for ...

Lisa Jackson Should Promulgate the Ozone Standard or Resign

by Thomas McGarity | September 06, 2011
Last Friday, President Obama ordered EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw EPA’s new ambient air quality standard for ground level ozone (smog). The order came in a letter from Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.  The order does not pretend to be based on science. Indeed, it flies in the face of the available science on the human health effects of ozone as determined on at least two occasions ...

When Politics Trump Science: How the Ozone Standard's Three-Year Delay Has Already Led to Thousands of Avoidable Deaths

by Rena Steinzor | July 20, 2011
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst James Goodwin. Few incidents better illustrate the Bush Administration’s outright hostility to politically inconvenient science than its 2008 rule updating the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). In the run-up to that rule, Bush’s EPA ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), an independent and well-respected advisor to the EPA on clean air issues, that it set the standard in the range of ...

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