Energy & Environment

House committee votes to delay ozone rule

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A House committee on Wednesday passed a bill to delay the Obama administration’s new ozone pollution rule and change the way the federal government writes future air pollution rules.

The Wednesday vote along party lines in the House Energy and Commerce Committee sends the bill to the full House for its consideration.

{mosads}The legislation would delay last year’s ozone rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by up to eight years.

In the future, the EPA would be allowed to consider new rules on ozone and other air pollutants every 10 years instead of every five years, the current time period, and the EPA would for the first time be allowed to consider the costs of new standards, not just the health impacts.

“No one opposes clear air and clean water,” Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), one of the sponsors of the bill, said.

“This legislation provides states more time to implement the new standard, which was key for ensuring that we do not stifle the incredible investments made in the energy, manufacturing and chemical sectors,” he said.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said the legislation “will allow states to implement EPA’s ozone standards in a manner that is more practical and cost-effective,” and ensures states don’t have to think about how to comply with two standards at the same time.

Ozone is a component of smog and is linked to respiratory ailments like asthma. It is a byproduct of various pollutants from burning fossil fuels, so limiting it can hit the energy industry, manufacturers and similar sectors.

Democrats said the bill would effectively gut the Clean Air Act. They objected particularly to the provision that would allow the EPA to consider costs, threatening the current law that says ozone rules are based only on health and environmental considerations.

“Let’s not pretend that the legislative changes in this bill are simply tinkering around the margins of the Clean Air Act,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), the panel’s top Democrat. “This is radical change. Weakening protections of the law won’t make air pollution go away.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said the bill “eliminates the core Clean Air Act principle that air pollution should be capped at a level that is protective of human health. Instead, the bill injects economic and technological considerations into what’s always been a strictly science-based product.”

The panel rejected numerous Democratic amendments meant to preserve some of the health and environmental protections in the current law that they said were threatened by the GOP’s bill.

Numerous states and energy interests are suing the EPA with the goal of having the ozone bill overturned, while some environmental groups are suing to have it strengthened.

The Energy and Commerce Committee also passed Wednesday, by voice vote, a bipartisan bill meant to encourage development of advanced nuclear energy technologies through reforms to Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards and other measures.

The committee’s subpanel on energy and power passed both bills last week.

Tags Air pollution Environmental Protection Agency House Energy and Commerce Committee Marsha Blackburn Ozone
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