In March, Representative Pete Olson from Texas introduced H.R. 4775, the “Ozone Standards Implementation Act.” As is often the case, the devil is in the details of this rather innocuous-sounding bill. In fact, H.R. 4775 seeks to not only delay implementation of the 2015 ozone standards, but it also could permanently weaken the Clean Air Act.
Put simply, H.R. 4775 would drastically alter the Clean Air Act and weaken air quality protections by allowing more pollution, resulting in less protection for public health. Below are some of the most troubling aspects of the bill:
🌤 It changes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) deadlines. Specifically, Section 2(a) drastically extends deadlines for implementing the 2015 ozone NAAQS standards by up to eight years. This means the outdated ozone standard of 75 parts per billion would remain in effect. Where EPA found that the current standard was insufficient to protect human health, allowing citizens to be exposed to 75 ppb instead of 70 ppb means that they will be unnecessarily subjected to serious health and welfare problems for another eight years.
🌤 It changes the NAAQS Pollutant Review Cycle. Section 3(a) of H.R. 4775 extends the review period of criteria air pollutants from every five years to every ten years. Doubling the review period runs afoul of the very purpose of the NAAQS, which is to establish a level of emissions that adequately protect public health based on the latest scientific knowledge.
🌤 It inexplicably changes to the criteria for establishing an air quality standard. Section 3(b) of the bill alters the current criteria of establishing a standard based soslely on protecting public health to adding an additional, superfluous burden of including the “technological feasibility” of the standard. This additional obligation directly threatens the health-based decisionmaking that has been the cornerstone of the NAAQS.
🌤 Lastly, it expands the definition for “exceptional events.” Section 3(h) of H.R. 4775 extends the list of circumstances that fall within the definition of “exceptional events” to include high pollution days where the air is stagnant. This shocking revision of the definition of “exceptional event” will allow exclusions for the precise air pollution issues that the Clean Air Act aims to combat.
The bill is gaining momentum in recent weeks. On May 18, 2016 the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced H.R. 4775, with amendments, in a 30-23 vote. The Senate version hasn’t moved yet, but that’s no reason for complacency.
Please tell your Representative to put your health first and oppose H.R. 4775.
Haley joined GASP in 2014 as our programs manager and was named staff attorney in 2016. She has a B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and a master’s in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.