Bill Delaying EPA’s Ozone Standards Heads to Senate

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By Catherine Douglas Moran

A bill to postpone deadlines under the EPA’s updated ozone air pollution standards sailed through the House and heads to the Senate where its outlook is murkier.

Sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 (H.R. 806) passed the House on a 229-199 vote and would give the Environmental Protection Agency an extra eight years to determine which areas of the country do not meet the 70 parts per billion ozone standards set in 2015.

The bill, a version of which also passed the House in 2016, would extend that deadline to 2025 . Ozone can make bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma worse, according to the EPA.

The bill also would extend from every five years to every 10 years the requirement for the EPA to review and, if necessary, update the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and other pollutants. It also would allow the EPA to consider technical feasibility of pollution controls when setting new national pollution standards. Currently, only risk considerations enter into the setting of the health standards.

Should the legislation be enacted, companies may find it easier to secure operating permits for new industrial facilities because they wouldn’t be subject to the more stringent standards.

The agency would also be required to report to Congress on how pollution from other countries affects states’ ability to meet the ozone standards.

The six Democratic amendments offered to the House were all defeated on the floor. There were no Republican amendments.

Senate Bill Stuck

Senate legislation to delay the ozone standard, introduced by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), has a half-dozen co-sponsors including one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.). But it appears to be stuck in neutral in that chamber. The Senate did not take up the bill when it passed the House in the last congress.

No markup has been scheduled in either the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee subcommittee chaired by Capito or the full environment committee. But she “is still working to advance” the bill, “either as a stand-alone bill or as part of broader legislation,” Capito spokesman Tyler Hernandez told Bloomberg BNA.

Capito has acknowledged the slim 52-48 Republican Senate majority makes it difficult to overcome the 60-vote hurdle for ending a likely Democratic-led filibuster threat. Instead, she has weighed attaching the measure to a spending bill or other “must-pass” measure that Democrats might be forced to accept.

Oil and Gas Industry Support

Before the vote, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said on the House floor that the bill gives the states flexibility to “focus on the most pressing environmental issues in each individual state rather than having the EPA dictate where resources must be used regardless of need.”

Out of the bill’s 24 cosponsors, it has the support of Democratic Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

The bill has support from more than 100 industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the Consumer Energy Alliance, and the Industrial Environmental Association. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the House consideration a “key” House vote.

The bills “provide a common-sense plan that maintains continued air quality improvement without unnecessarily straining state and local economic resources,” more than 140 industry groups wrote in a July 18 letter supporting the legislation.

Ozone Bill Opposition

Before the vote, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said the bill would benefit oil and gas industries while increasing health impacts from unregulated air pollution.

“It only serves to make people sicker,” Polis said on the House floor. “More people would suffer from asthma and more people would suffer from cancer.”

The American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, and American Thoracic Society urged Congress to reject the bill in a letter because it “imposes additional delays and sweeping changes that will threaten health, particularly the health of children, seniors, and people with chronic disease.”

—With assistance from Dean Scott.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Douglas Moran in Washington at cmoran@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the bill is available at http://src.bna.com/qT9.

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