Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a one-year delay of EPA’s final designation of counties that are not attaining the 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS). The 2015 standard tightened the existing 2008 standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Designations for the 2015 standard were originally due by this October. EPA is taking this additional time to review and re-evaluate many of the complicated issues that AGC raised in its comments on the proposed version of the 2015 rule.
This extension also gives nonattainment states more time to develop emission inventories, air quality clean-up plans (SIPs) and additional mandatory control measures.
To see the states’ recommendations for area designations under the 2015 standard click here. Significantly, several states that currently have no 8- hour ozone nonattainment areas may ultimately have counties in violation of the 70-ppb limit, including: Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah. But EPA’s “official” designations could change after another year of air quality data is collected. (EPA had planned to use 2014-2016 data when it made its final designations.)
Pruitt’s June 6 press release and letter to state governors indicate that the decision to delay final designations under the 2015 standard also provides EPA with additional time to conduct its reconsideration of the rule. EPA also is looking to provide states with greater flexibility as they develop their SIPs; the agency has established an “Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force.” The agency reports that it currently is evaluating: the role of background ozone levels; how to account for international transport; and timelier exceptional events demonstrations. AGC has pointed to many of these complex issues that can undermine compliance efforts.
Click here for an up-to-date breakdown of states/counties/areas currently in nonattainment for ozone (2008 8-hour standard).
Construction companies will feel the effects of tighter ozone limits, mainly via potential restrictions on equipment emissions in areas with poor air quality (direct impact), as well as additional controls on industrial facilities and planning requirements for transportation-related sources (indirect impact). Notably, nonattainment counties that are out of compliance with 2015 ozone standards could have federal highway funds withheld.