House committee approves bill slowing ozone regulations

House committee approves bill slowing ozone regulations
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A House committee approved a bill Wednesday slowing the implementation of federal ozone regulations.

The legislation, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), would instruct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its limits on ozone pollution every 10 years rather than every 5 years, the current timeline.

Supporters of the bill say it would help localities comply with existing ozone standards before federal regulators issue newer, stricter limits on the pollutant.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on a 29-24 vote, sending it to the floor for a second straight session. The House passed the bill last year but with President Obama in the White House, it stalled before going through the Senate.

The measure comes as the Trump EPA says it will reconsider and possibly repeal the ozone standards set by Obama administration regulators in 2015. 

The EPA formally delayed implementation of the 2015 rule on Wednesday, saying it will not make final decisions on which areas of the country are out of compliance with the ozone limits until October 2018. 

Ozone, a component of smog and a byproduct of pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels, contributes to health problems like asthma attacks. Democrats broadly opposed the bill on public health grounds.

“Despite all the scientific research, this bill would stall the new ozone standards, permanently weaken the Clean Air Act and hamstring EPA’s ability to regulate these harmful contaminants, both now and in the future,” Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said.

Public health groups generally support instituting tighter limits on ozone, though conservatives and manufacturers warn that the regulations present expensive and difficult compliance problems.

“The bill also takes positive steps to address manufacturers’ permitting challenges as they pertain to ozone standards and requires real examination of the impact of international air pollution on domestic ozone levels,” said Ross Eisenberg, a vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers, which has led the industry fight against ozone rules.