US House passes NAAQS implementation bill along party lines

The US House of Representatives has approved H.R. 806, which would give state and local governments more time to implement federal ground-level ozone limits and avoid nonattainment penalties. The 231-188 vote followed party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it.

The US House of Representatives has approved H.R. 806, which would give state and local governments more time to implement federal ground-level ozone limits and avoid nonattainment penalties. The 231-188 vote followed party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it.

“This bill is about listening to our regulators back home,” said Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.), who introduced the measure on Feb. 1. “It is about giving our local officials the tools they need to make air rules work. It’s about making sure that communities aren’t penalized for pollution they can’t control. It’s about making sure that when [the US Environmental Protection Agency] sets a standard, they have to put out the rules communities need to meet that standard.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) responded, “This bill is called the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, but it is actually a political stunt for a special interest, in this case the oil and gas industry. It will hurt our air, our environment, and, frankly, have a negative impact on the health of Americans. It will increase health care costs at a time when [such] costs are already too high.”

The floor vote came nearly a month after the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved it by a 29-24 vote (OGJ Online, June 29, 2017).

Background ozone problem

The measure’s supporters, which include the American Petroleum Institute and other business groups, have said the measure was necessary because many state and local governments had not completed their implementation of EPA’s 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) when the agency imposed stricter limits in 2015.

They also argued that the new limits failed to consider naturally occurring background ozone in national parks and other nonindustrial places that they said could trigger nonattainment penalties there.

The American Chemistry Council applauded House members’ action. “Their efforts will help accelerate manufacturing investment and new jobs by ensuring more timely and efficient regulatory permitting for facilities around the country,” it said.

“Before facilities may proceed with a new construction or expansion project, they must obtain regulatory approval. This task is complicated when localities are forced to comply with two different ozone standards at the same time,” ACC noted.

Shortly before the vote, API and 145 other organizations sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to instruct their members to vote for a comparable bill, S. 263, which Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced the same day Olson introduced his. The July 18 letter also urged House leaders to support H.R. 806.

“The Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 can give state and local regulators sufficient time and flexibility to implement EPA’s new ozone standards,” said Howard J. Feldman, API senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs. “This legislation maintains our national commitment to protecting public health and reducing emissions as it helps the US continue to secure the economic, jobs, and consumer benefits of the oil and gas industry.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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