Earthjustice attorney David Baron, who represented environmental groups in a lawsuit challenging the Bush standard, applauded EPA's proposal, saying the current standards do not protect public health with a margin of safety.
"We also welcome EPA's proposal of a separate standard to protect forests from ozone damage," Baron said. "According to the National Park Service, ozone pollution causes widespread tree damage and severely impacts tree growth. Both the Park Service and EPA's science advisers have called for a strong separate standard to protect our forests from ozone pollution."
Former House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who probed allegations of White House interference surrounding the 2008 standard, also welcomed the proposal.
"I am pleased that EPA is once again basing its clean air decisions on the advice of independent scientists," Waxman said. "I applaud this reversal of a Bush administration decision to ignore science."
Industry groups question science
Industry groups, however, expressed concern that the proposed regulations are not needed to protect public health and welfare and that they will impose undue economic burdens.
"This goes well beyond the statute requirement of requisite to protect health and welfare," said Amy Chai, staff counsel for the National Association of Home Builders.
"It places an impermissible burden on the industry," Chai added. "Obviously our industry at this point is just not equipped to deal with a burden that is not going to contribute positively to air quality."
The American Petroleum Institute said in a statement that the action lacks scientific justification. "EPA acknowledges the newer studies on ozone 'do not materially change any of the broad scientific conclusions regarding the health effects of exposure,'" the group said in a statement. "Given that conclusion, there is absolutely no basis for EPA to propose changing the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA Administrator in 2008."
Depending on the final standard, EPA said its proposal would yield health benefits between $13 billion and $100 billion. The estimated cost for implementing the draft rule range from $19 billion to $90 billion.
EPA will accept public comment on the rule for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency plans to hold two public hearings on Feb. 2 in Arlington, Va., and Houston and a third on Feb. 4 in Sacramento, Calif. EPA plans to issue its final standards by Aug. 31.
The agency proposed an accelerated schedule for determining whether areas are in compliance with the primary standard and is accepting comments on whether to designate areas for a secondary standard on an accelerated schedule.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500