House panel votes to delay new ozone rules

House panel votes to delay new ozone rules
© The Hill

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel voted Thursday to delay the Obama administration’s new ozone pollution standards and make future regulations more friendly to industry.

The committee’s energy and power subcommittee passed the bill along party lines.

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The measure would give states up to eight years to comply with last year’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on ozone, which restricted the allowable amount of ozone in ambient air to 70 parts per billion, from the previous 75 parts per billion.

Future rules for numerous pollutants, including ozone, would only happen every 10 years, expanding from the current five years, and the EPA would for the first time have to consider the costs to businesses in future ozone restrictions.

“We believe this bill creates a path to improve air quality without harming job creation and economic growth,” Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), the main sponsor of the bill, said at the subcommittee meeting.

“It also provides long-overdue reforms to the process by which EPA sets and implements national air pollution standards,” he said. “EPA’s new ozone standards will impose major compliance costs on state and local governments, as well as threaten jobs in my home state and other areas that are not in attainment currently. The 2008 ozone standards are challenging enough, and now EPA has made it worse by waiting seven years to finalize the implementation rules.”

Ozone is a component in smog and is linked to respiratory illnesses like asthma. But since it’s created from various pollutants related to burning fossil fuels, the energy industry and its allies in manufacturing and other business sectors oppose new restrictions, fearing that states would crack down on their pollutants to comply.

“Why should regulators hamper job creators with unnecessary red tape in these areas that are already on track for compliance?” asked Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresOvernight Energy: GOP lawmaker parodies Green New Deal in new bill | House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill | Park Service chief grilled over shutdown House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE (R-Texas).

“States now face the challenge of spending already limited resources on implementing a new second standard of 70 parts per billion.”

Democrats accused the GOP of trying to dismantle the Clean Air Act.

“This bill, HR 4775, is a radical attempt to gut the Clean Air Act. That’s all it is,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

The bill is “an irresponsible attack that strikes at the heart of the Clean Air Act and would undermine decades of progress on cleaning up pollution and protecting public health,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the committee.

The panel rejected along party lines numerous Democratic amendments meant to roll back provisions in the bill they say undermine public health protections.

The Obama administration hasn’t said it formally opposes the bill, but it has problems with numerous parts of it.

In written testimony last month to the committee, Janet McCabe, the top air regulator at the EPA, warned against the delays written into the legislation.

“The delays in this bill would jeopardize progress toward cleaner air and delay health protections for millions of Americans, including children, older adults, and people with asthma,” McCabe wrote.

“The EPA and state, local, and tribal co-regulators share a long history of managing air quality under the Clean Air Act, supported by a wealth of previously issued EPA rules and guidance,” she said, warning that the bill threatens that cooperation.