Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed its June 2017 decision to delay by one year the final designation of counties that are not attaining the 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS). EPA will now make those determinations by the October 1, 2017, deadline. The reversal came after news that 15 states and the District of Columbia were filing suit against EPA to enforce the original deadline. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been critical of lawsuits (and settlement agreements) resulting from missed statutory deadlines.
Extending the deadline by a year would have given states more time to develop emission inventories, air quality clean-up plans, and additional mandatory control measures. However, EPA now says that information from the states is more complete than initially thought.
States and counties that are not attaining the new standard will look for strategies to reduce emissions. States could consider restrictions and/or controls on industrial facilities (such as requirements for new construction) and equipment emissions, or additional hurdles and planning requirements for transportation related sources. Notably, nonattainment counties that are out of compliance with 2015 ozone standards could have federal highway funds withheld.