Capito chairs Senate hearing on air quality and ozone

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., presided over a hearing Tuesday regarding legislation that would affect air quality standards, specifically regarding ozone.

The bills, Senate Bills 263 and 452, would delay the implementation and enforcement of standards to allow governments and businesses additional time to comply with the guidelines.

Capito serves as chairwoman of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The subcommittee is responsible for overseeing items relating to air and nuclear protection, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Clean Air Act.

“The bills before us today are meant to end the regulatory uncertainty and its impacts on Americans’ livelihoods,” Capito said to the subcommittee.

Senate Bill 263, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publicize the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards by October 2025, while states would have to submit implementation plans abiding by those standards by October 2026.

The 2015 standards strengthened the 2008 standards by only requiring 70 parts per billion for ozone and related agents. The guidelines would be implemented to reduce ozone pollution.

According to the EPA, the public health benefits of the new standards are estimated between $2.9 to 5.9 billion beginning in 2025. The EPA has also estimated it would cost $2.2 billion for states to comply with the new standard.

“EPA projections show the vast majority of U.S. counties will meet the standards by 2025 with federal and state rules and programs now in place or underway,” the agency overview said.

Governors would also be responsible for designating areas in their respective state as attainment, nonattainment or unclassifiable by October 2024.

Capito, who introduced Senate Bill 263 in February, said the standards could affect “nonattainment” communities, as companies could close area factories and sell ozone offset credits in order to increase profits.

“This is a multi-billion dollar issue, as there are severe constraints on economic development in areas designated as in ‘nonattainment,'” Capito said.

Senate Bill 452, the Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length Act of 2017, would amend the Clean Air Act to have the Environmental Protection Agency review standards every 10 years rather than after five years.

“The EPA has repeatedly failed to comply with the existing five-year schedule and, as the standards have gradually tightened compliance has become costlier and more complicated,” Capito said. “The longer schedule will allow the time needed for regulators, governments, and regulated parties to understand and fulfill their obligations.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is Senate Bill 452’s sponsor. Capito co-sponsored the legislation.

Capito said states have different challenges in meeting ozone standards, which includes natural and industrial factors. The changes would provide a clear understanding of how standards are implemented and allow parties to make necessary changes.

Both bills were read twice before the full Senate before being sent to the chamber’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.

By:  Alex Thomas
Source: Metro News