House to Vote on Rep. Olson’s Ozone Standards Bill

 Air downtown Utah

Later today, the House of Representatives is set to consider H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), goes beyond the most recent update to the national ozone standards, with various provisions that would change the way the Environmental Protection Agency reviews standards for particulate matter, lead and other air pollutants.

Here’s what you need to know:

What Would It Do?

In 2015, the EPA decided to set the national ozone standards at a level of 70 parts per billion, a regulation the agency estimated to provide up to $5.9 billion in public health benefits related to reduced exposure to air pollution. One of the first steps under new standards is to designate areas that do not meet the 70 ppb standards, a process the EPA expects to complete for the 70 ppb standards by 2017.

H.R. 4775 would push back the designations process by eight years, a move that Olson has described as necessary to give states more time to meet the previous 75 ppb ozone standards, set in 2008, before moving on to an even more aggressive air quality goal.

H.R. 4775 also would make several changes to the EPA’s process for reviewing national standards for ozone, particulate matter, lead, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Currently the Clean Air Act requires the agency to review, and revise if necessary, those standards every five years. If H.R. 4775 is enacted, the mandatory review cycle would be extended to 10 years.

Olson’s bill also would prohibit the EPA from proposing revised ozone standards earlier than October 2025 and would allow for the EPA to consider technological feasibility in its decision-making process for revising national standards.

While opponents of the legislation have described H.R. 4775 as a far-reaching attack on one of the fundamental parts of the Clean Air Act, Olson has said his bill would make necessary changes to the law that would not undermine the EPA’s ability to protect people from air pollution.

“State after state is telling us what we already know: The Clean Air Act is hugely important, but it’s also imperfect,” Olson said May 17 during a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of his bill.

The Supporters:

H.R. 4775 is supported by hundreds of industry associations, including the American Chemistry Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The National Association of Manufacturers issued a June 7 “key vote” letter urging members of the House to support the bill, which the association said would restore “flexibility and reasonableness” to the national ambient air quality standards process.

The Opposition:

The White House announced yesterday that President Obama’s advisers would recommend that he veto H.R. 4775 if the measure is passed by both the House and the Senate. The administration said it “strongly opposes” the bill because it would “undermine the vitally important” protections offered by the Clean Air Act.

“H.R. 4775 would jeopardize progress toward cleaner air and significantly delay health benefits worth billions of dollars for millions of Americans, including those most vulnerable--children, older adults, and people with asthma,” the White House said.

Olson’s bill also is opposed by many public health and environmental groups, including the American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society and Clean Air Watch. Representatives of those organizations have dubbed the legislation the “Smoggy Skies Act” and have frequently criticized House Republicans on Twitter for backing the bill.

What’s Next:

The House is set to vote on the bill later today.