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Air Quality - The Antiregulatory Rebellion

standards ozone standard epa

The dissatisfaction with government regulation that developed in the 1980s grew even stronger in the 1990s. The Republican-led Congress took steps to put the brakes on what it considered growing environmental regulation. As a result, the funding was cut for environmental protection—including the CAA, the CAAA, the Clean Water Act (PL 92-500), the Safe Drinking Water Act (PL 93-523), and other environmental statutes. Subsequent fiscal budgets continued those cuts by many millions of dollars.

The CAA requires the EPA to review public health standards at least every five years to ensure they reflect the best current science. In 1997—in response to what many consider compelling scientific evidence of the harm caused to human health by ozone and fine particles—the EPA issued new, stricter air quality standards for ozone and PM.

This was the first revision in ozone standards in 20 years and the first-ever standard for fine particulates. The provisions tightened the standard for ground-level ozone from the level of 0.12 parts per million (ppm) at the highest daily measurement to 0.08 ppm average over an 8-hour period. The new PM standard included particles larger than 2.5 microns in diameter instead of the original standard of those larger than 10 microns. However, in May 1999 a three-judge federal appeals panel overturned the new standards. The EPA appealed, but in October 1999 the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to overturn the decision. In January 2000 the American Lung Association petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. The Supreme Court ruled in February 2001 that the EPA had the authority under the CAA to set the new standards. Claims that the EPA's decision was arbitrary and capricious and not supported by evidence were struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court in late May 2002.

Despite improvements in ozone levels, few large urban areas in the United States comply with ozone standards. Under the proposed standard, many smaller population centers would also become noncompliant, and states would be forced to take further pollution-control measures to comply. Some critics contend that the standards are either unattainable or not worth the cost. The Global Climate Coalition, a business and trade organization, claims that the proposal would damage the U.S. economy while doing little to help the environment.

In February 2002 President George W. Bush announced his plan to reduce air pollution from the power sector. The Clear Skies proposal would be a radical new way to regulate air pollution. Instead of adding new requirements, it would retain the major protections of the CAA and focus on a market-based approach to achieve significant emissions cuts in NO5, SO2, and mercury. Sources of emissions would be allowed to trade emission credits with each other. Thus, a facility well under the emissions cap could sell its credits to another facility that needed them.

Air Quality - Effect Of Utility Deregulation On Air Pollution [next] [back] Air Quality - The Clean Air Act (caa)—a Huge Success

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