Congress is pressing ahead with a bill to delay implementation of the 2015 ozone NAAQS. The bill, H.R. 4775 introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX-22), passed the House on June 8, 2016 by a vote of 234 – 177.
The bill extends until October 26, 2024, the deadline for states to submit designations to implement the 2015 ozone NAAQS and extends until October 26, 2025, the deadline for EPA to designate areas as attainment, nonattainment or unclassifiable with respect to the 2015 ozone NAAQS. Under the bill, states would have to submit a SIP by October 26, 2026 to implement, maintain and enforce the 2015 ozone NAAQS.
Additionally, if the EPA Administrator, in consultation with the independent scientific review committee, determines that a range of air quality levels protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, technological feasibility is a permissible secondary consideration. Prior to revising the NAAQS, EPA must also request advice regarding adverse public health, welfare, social, economic or energy impacts that may result from its strategy.
The bill would also require EPA to publish regulations and guidance for implementation of the NAAQS concurrently with the final standard. New or revised NAAQS would not apply to review of preconstruction permit applications for constructing or modifying a major source until EPA has published those regulations and guidance.
The bill extends the deadlines for science-based reviews for all NAAQS from five to 10 years. The bill also requires EPA to submit to Congress a report on the extent to which foreign sources of air pollution impact designations of nonattainment, attainment or unclassifiable. EPA must also conduct a study on the atmospheric formation of ozone. The study must be peer-reviewed, and EPA must incorporate the results of the study into any federal rules and guidance implementing the 2015 ozone standard.
On June 7, 2016, the Obama administration issued a statement indicating that the president would veto H.R. 4775 if he was presented with the bill. The Obama administration had previously come under criticism from environmental groups for not making the standard more stringent in 2015.
In addition to H.R. 4775, two bills are pending in the Senate that could affect the implementation of the ozone NAAQS. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced S.2882, which would also delay implementation of the 2015 ozone NAAQS similar to H.R. 4775. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced S.2072, which would direct EPA to implement a program deferring nonattainment designations based on a voluntary early action compact plan allowing communities to enter into voluntary, cooperative agreements with EPA to craft local solutions that improve air quality in compliance with federal standards.