EPA plans ‘accelerated’ consideration of ozone pollution rule

EPA plans ‘accelerated’ consideration of ozone pollution rule
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to implement an “accelerated” process for deciding whether to further restrict allowable ground-level ozone pollution limits.

In a draft plan released Friday, the EPA explained that in order to meet the legally required deadline of late 2020 to make a final decision on ozone, it has found some ways to speed up the review process.

“The current review of the [ozone standard] is progressing on an accelerated schedule and the EPA is incorporating a number of efficiencies in various aspects of the review process to ensure completion within the statutorily required period,” the agency wrote.

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The changes from previous review processes include skipping a kick-off workshop, not giving the external air pollution advisory committee a separate period to review the standard apart from the public comment period and not writing a risk and exposure assessment.

“The successfulness of these and other efficiencies implemented in this review will be considered by the EPA in planning for other future [air standard] reviews,” the EPA said.

Under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards program, the EPA is obligated to decide every five years whether to write a new standard for pollutants like ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, based on the latest scientific literature, among other factors.

The EPA is not allowed to consider implementation costs in setting the standard. But nonetheless, former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump to nominate Wheeler as EPA chief | House votes to remove protections for gray wolves | Lawmakers aim to pass disaster funds for California fires Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Time to stop letting fossil fuels run Washington MORE told agency officials earlier this year to consider how the costs of implementation could threaten public health, in an action that environmental advocates said was trying to get around the prohibition on cost considerations.

Pruitt also told the agency to consider how naturally occurring ozone and pollutants blown in from other countries could impact compliance, another factor that could weigh toward a less-restrictive standard.

The Obama administration wrote the last ozone rule in 2015, setting the allowable level at 70 parts per billion, down from 75 parts per billion. The EPA is still defending that rule against ongoing litigation against it from industry.

Ozone is a byproduct of pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels, and can cause various respiratory problems. In areas that do not meet the federal standard, states have to craft plans to bring down pollution levels.