EPA to take comments on ozone plan

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will officially kick off the public comment period Wednesday for its proposal to reduce smog-forming ozone pollution.

The proposed rule is set to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, according to a notice. That will start the clock on a 90-day period in which any individual, company, group or other entity can submit input to the agency.

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The regulation, unveiled last month, would reduce the acceptable concentration of ground-level ozone in the air to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current 75.

Ozone, a byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, is known to cause respiratory illnesses. That led public health and medical groups to applaud the proposal as a significant step toward reducing and mitigating diseases like asthma.

But companies that rely on fossil fuels are pushing back against the proposed limit, saying it could be the most expensive regulation ever imposed by the federal government.

The rule will also face a Congress with Republicans in control of both chambers, eager to chip away at expensive regulations.

The comment period will run through March 17 unless the EPA extends it. After that, regulators will review the comments before making a final rule.