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April 30 — Lobbying on national ozone standards increased by 184 percent from a year ago, following the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to revise the standards, with 88 groups and companies reporting lobbying on the issue during the first three months of 2015, according to public records.
Officials with several organizations told Bloomberg BNA that the existence of a concrete proposal from the EPA and the looming Oct. 1 deadline for the agency to finalize its decision on the ozone standards have fueled the increase in lobbying activity.
Supporters and opponents of more stringent national ambient air quality standards for ozone said lobbying is part of a larger effort on ozone, which includes various public awareness campaigns and discussions with the EPA and the White House.
The EPA in November 2014 proposed (RIN 2060-AP38) to revise the current standards issued in 2008 of 75 parts per billion to somewhere in the range of 65 ppb to 70 ppb, a development that the agency estimated could cost up to $16.6 billion annually. The proposal would revise both the health-based primary standard and the welfare-based secondary standard to somewhere in that range.
Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, told Bloomberg BNA April 30 that the EPA's proposal motivated member companies across all sectors, including energy, agriculture and construction, to get involved on ozone.
That is unique for environmental regulations, which typically only affect specific sectors, he said. “This one really hits everybody,” Eisenberg said.
When asked about the increase in industry lobbying activity on ozone, Eisenberg cited two main factors: “timing and the fact there is a proposal that frankly we don't like.”
The 88 distinct filings that mention ozone represent a 33 percent increase from the 66 groups that reported lobbying on the issue in the fourth quarter of 2014 and a 184 percent increase from the 31 groups that lobbied on ozone in the first quarter of 2014.
Bloomberg BNA conducted its review of the Senate Office of Public Records lobbying disclosure database using the search term “ozone.” The first-quarter filing deadline for 2015 was April 20.
Some of the groups that reported lobbying on ozone in 2015 that did not in 2014 include American Electric Power, the American Wood Council and the state of Indiana, which filed comments on the ozone proposal urging the EPA to retain the current standards.
Advocacy on the ozone standards isn't new for the wood products industry, but the American Wood Council waited for the EPA to issue its proposal before beginning its lobbying of Congress, Sarah Dodge-Palmer, vice president of government affairs at the council, said.
Dodge-Palmer told Bloomberg BNA the group has been “very active” in advocacy efforts toward the EPA and is in the midst of a new effort to inform Congress of how a more stringent standard could affect various states differently.
Those efforts include distributing maps to the EPA and members of Congress showing the location of wood products, pulp and paper facilities and whether those areas would be in nonattainment of a more stringent ozone standard based on 2011-2013 monitoring.
A nonattainment designation triggers additional pollution control requirements and more stringent permitting requirements under the EPA's new source review program, which applies to new and modified power plants, manufacturing facilities and other industrial facilities.
Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power, told Bloomberg BNA that the company started lobbying on ozone in 2015 because there is “an actual proposal now to talk about and express views on.”
While various industries are working together against a more stringent ozone standard, many public health and environmental groups that support a revised standard also reported lobbying activity. Those organizations include the American Lung Association (ALA), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
Lyndsay Moseley, director of the ALA's Healthy Air Campaign, told Bloomberg BNA there is increasing interest in ozone pollution by the health and medical community because of strong evidence that a more protective standard is needed.
“The science is so clear,” Moseley said. “We cannot emphasize enough the health impacts of breathing unhealthy levels of ozone.”
Moseley said the public health groups, which would like to see ozone standards no higher than 60 ppb, are reinforcing the strengths of the science and reminding members of Congress of the requirements of the Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to set the primary, health-based ozone standard at a level that is requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.
Many of the groups that reported lobbying on ozone identified a pair of bills that would block the EPA from finalizing revised standards in 2015.
One of those bills, the Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act (S. 751, H.R. 1388), would bar the EPA from setting more stringent standards until 85 percent of the areas currently designated as being in nonattainment with the 2008 ozone standards of 75 ppb demonstrate compliance.
That legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and in the House by Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio).
The other bill (S. 640), introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), would block the EPA from finalizing revised ozone standards until Feb. 1, 2018.
Eisenberg said that while industry trade associations are working together for a regulatory solution to their concerns with the EPA's proposal, they also are supportive of legislative fixes that would block the revised standards.
He specifically highlighted provisions of the CASE Act that would require the EPA to consider feasibility and cost when deciding where to set the ozone standards, two things that the EPA currently is barred from considering under the Clean Air Act.
Eisenberg also said Flake's bill, the Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length (ORDEAL) Act , had good ideas about extending the current five-year review cycle for national air quality standards.
“Ultimately, we're at a point now where we'll take anything,” Eisenberg said.
While many industry groups reported lobbying on those bills, the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association both reported lobbying against both ozone bills.
Terry McGuire, Washington representative for the Sierra Club, told Bloomberg BNA in an April 30 e-mail that the group has focused its efforts on highlighting the overwhelming public support for strong clean air protections.
“We will continue to draw out the distinctions between those elected officials that are fighting to protect their constituents from deadly air pollution and those that are content to do the bidding of big corporate polluters,” McGuire said.
Representatives on both sides of the debate said lobbying and public outreach efforts would continue leading up to the Oct. 1 deadline for finalizing the new standards.
McGuire said the Sierra Club and other environmental and public health groups will continue to implement “strong media and field strategies” to remind the EPA and the White House of the science that supports a stronger standard.
He noted that the groups helped generate more than 500,000 public comments in support of the strongest possible standards and said the groups will continue their grass-roots efforts.
The Sierra Club in April launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the need for a stronger ozone standard. That campaign will continue through October and will include online and print advertisements, as well as collaborations with local officials and community organizations.
The Sierra Club also issued a series of baseball-themed profiles of various members of Congress identifying supporters and opponents of clean air, action on climate change and clean energy.
Eisenberg said the National Association of Manufacturers is in the middle of a multimillion dollar advocacy campaign including lobbying, media and grass-roots efforts. Ozone is one of the highest priority issues for the manufacturing sector, which is planning a “consistent drum beat” from now until the Oct. 1 deadline, he said.
“We're pulling out all the stops,” Eisenberg said.
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