API Calls Ozone Rule Review Rushed, Potentially Costly

The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Monday criticized the Obama administration for its early start of its final review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to reduce the allowable concentration of ozone air pollution.

The administration is just now starting the review only one month before a court ordered due date of Oct. 1; the process normally takes 60 to 90 days. API is concerned that the Obama Administration is limiting interagency review of the rule, which could become the most expensive regulation in U.S. history.

The proposed new standards would impose unachievable emission reduction requirements on virtually every part of the United States, including rural and undeveloped areas.

“EPA’s proposal to tighten the ozone standards would fall on top of current limits that are already improving air quality,” API Senior Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Howard Feldman said in an Aug. 31 press statement. “The nation’s air is getting cleaner, and air quality will continue to improve as we implement the existing standards.”

The ozone rule has become one of the most controversial air pollution rules in President Obama’s tenure, mainly because of its estimated costs and impact on fossil fuels and the industries that use them, the Hill reported Monday. The proposed rule could cost $270 billion per year and place millions of jobs at risk, according to a July 2014 report by NERA Economic Consulting on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Both the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry would be affected, but a bigger impact could be seen on upstream oil and gas activity because of concerns it would limit new exploration and production due to permit restrictions, an API spokesperson told Rigzone in an email statement.

API urged the administration to let the current standards keep working, citing EPA data that shows ground level ozone in the United States fell by 18 percent between 2000 and 2013.  API attributed the decline to a combination of cleaner gasoline and diesel fuels, modernized equipment and facilities, and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Under the proposed new rule, the ozone threshold would be lowered from the current standards of 75 parts per billion (PPB), possibly to as low as 60 PPB. Using EPA data, 94 percent of the United States’ population would live in places that exceed that level, and could be subject to new emissions reduction requirements. “Even pristine areas like Yellowstone National Park would be above the 65 PPB standards,” API noted, adding that government and industry officials have been critical of the proposed standard.

Sierra Club is calling for an even lower ozone standard of 60 PPB, noting that long-term exposure to dangerous levels of ground level ozone posed a variety of serious medical conditions, including severe asthma attacks, reproductive and developmental harm, and in some cases premature death. These risks put millions of Americans of risk, and disproportionately impact communities of color, the environmental group said in a June 2015 report.


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