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EPA Delays Issuing Ozone Rules Again

Vehicle emission is a large contributor to ground-level ozone. New, stricter standards were supposed to be issued by the EPA this summer.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.
Vehicle emission is a large contributor to ground-level ozone. New, stricter standards were supposed to be issued by the EPA this summer.

The EPA has once again delayed releasing stricter ground-level ozone standards. Those were supposed to be issued on July 29. This is the fourth time the EPA has delayed releasing exact standards.

The Bush Administration set the ozone standard at 75 parts per billion in 2008 even after EPA scientists had recommended a more stringent standard. The EPA has indicated that the new standard would fall between 60 to 70 parts per billion.

EPA press secretary Brendan Gilfillan issued this statement in announcing the delay.

“Administrator Jackson is fully committed to finalizing EPA’s reconsideration of the Clean Air Act health standard for ground level ozone.  That reconsideration is currently going through interagency review led by OMB.  Following completion of this final step, EPA will finalize its reconsideration, but will not issue the final rule on July 29th, the date the agency had intended.  We look forward to finalizing this standard shortly.  A new ozone standard will be based on the best science and meet the obligation established under the Clean Air Act to protect the health of the American people.  In implementing this new standard, EPA will use the long-standing flexibility in the Clean Air Act to consider costs, jobs and the economy.”

The federal agency is facing pressure from businesses and Congress to postpone implementation until 2013 when the government must review ozone standards again.

 “It is somewhat frustrating,” Bill Gill told KUT News. Gill is the Air Quality Manager at the Capital Area Council of Governments. CAPCOG monitors and models ozone readings for the Central Texas area including Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Hays and six other counties. Gill said delay makes it difficult for the region to plan air quality measures.

A meeting with elected officials was planned in anticipation of the new EPA ozone standards to discuss what actions Central Texas should take. The region is teetering between attainment and non-attainment. The Austin area currently measures ozone at 75 parts per billion.

Gill said he can only speculate that political and business pressure has played a role in the delay. But he added that perhaps the EPA realized several areas would not be able to reach compliance.

“The EPA, I think realized that they were setting up a lot of areas including Austin to being designated non-attainment with a very short time frame for achieving attainment.”

But Gill says the other rulings the EPA has issued such as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will have large, positive impacts to cutting pollution that contributes to ground-level ozone.

EPA officials say the new standard would be finalized “shortly.”

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