U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt addressed local officials about a one-year extension for states to develop air quality plans in relation to the Obama-era 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.
On June 6, Pruitt sent a letter to state governors informing them of the EPA's current decision and efforts regarding the new NAAQS that was finalized on October of 2015. Apart from giving each state more time to formulate a better plan for ensuring cleaner air, it also gives the agency an extension to further study the current regulations.
Under the current NAAQS, states are submitting their proposals for area designations under the lessened standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) from the previous 75 ppb. In the press release, the business consequences for states that are in "nonattainment" of the current regulation was stated, including restrictions on infrastructure investments, increased regulatory burdens, and increased business costs.
The press release also states that the one-year delay will give states more time to formulate an air quality plan that is more flexible to each state, something that Arizona Senator Jeff Flake agrees with.
"Nowhere are the flaws of previous administration's one-size-fits-all approach to regulating ozone more evident than in Arizona, a desert state where naturally-occurring ozone makes it impossible to meet the new federal mandate," said Sen. Flake.
Further, the press release also announces the establishment of an Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force that will evidently be responsible for developing flexibilities for states to comply with the standard.
In addition to giving states a one-year extension to their submissions, the implementation delay also allows for the department to further study the current regulation based on latest information. This reevaluation includes taking time to study complex issues including understanding the role of background ozone levels and international transport.
In his letter to the governors, Pruitt applauded the states for what he described as tremendous progress and significant investments to clean the air. He states that since 1980, there has been a 63 percent drop in principal air pollutants and a 33 percent decline in ozone levels. Still, Pruitt stresses that despite the improvements, costs for improving air quality have continued to increase.
As such, he stated his commitment to working with local officials in their quest to working toward cleaner air without compromising their economic growth.
The 2015 NAAQS was set under the Clean Air Act that was last amended in 1990. It identifies two types of NAAQS: the primary standards, which provide public health protection for the more "sensitive" members of the population including asthmatics, children, and the elderly; and the secondary standards, which provide protection against damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.