On July 18th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill updating the Clean Air Act and delaying implementing Obama-era ozone reduction regulations until 2024. The “Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017” H.R. 806 passed the House 229 to 199 with bipartisan support.
The bill delays ozone standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008. States were given until 2015 to comply with the new pollution regulations. The Obama administration’s EPA, however, reconsidered the standards in 2010-2011 and delayed issuing guidance states and businesses needed to adhere to the limit on ozone output, according to an American Petroleum Institute (API) letter written in support of the legislation.
Obama’s EPA then set new ozone standards in October 2015, only months after states received final guidance from EPA on how to implement the 2008 ozone standards. Many states had fallen behind in implementing the 2008 standards, however, because of the reconsideration period.
“The EPA did not account for this self-imposed delay when issuing the 2015 ozone standards, thereby imposing duplicative costs and burdens of implementing multiple standards simultaneously,” the API letter said. “This is particularly wasteful as the EPA itself projects that nearly the entire country would attain the 2015 ozone standards simply by being provided an opportunity to fully implement already-planned measures like their state implementation plans for the 2008 ozone standards.”
The bill’s sponsor, Texas Rep. Pete Olson, said in a press release that the act “provides needed flexibility so that states and localities can adequately achieve new, lower standards with time for compliance. Health remains the first priority in setting standards and giving our local officials the tools they need make the Clean Air Act work. I’m proud that this common sense bill received bipartisan support in the House and I urge the Senate to act quickly as well.”
But opponents of the legislation harshly criticized the bill’s passage, dubbing it the “Smoggy Skies Act.” President and CEO of the American Lung Association Harold P. Wimmer claimed it placed millions of American lives at risk. “The bill would delay lifesaving protections against ozone pollution, exposing Americans to unnecessary pollution levels that will lead to asthma attacks and premature deaths that could have been prevented,” Wimmer said in a statement. “The bill also permanently weakens Clean Air Act authority to reduce ozone and other harmful air pollutants like carbon monoxide, lead and particle pollution in the future.”