The National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone

Posted on November 5, 2015

For the past 45 years, the EPA has set uniform national ambient air quality standards for common pollutants pursuant to the mandate of the Clean Air Act. The pollutant that has been the most difficult to control is ozone. Much of the nation’s population lives in areas that fail to meet the health-based standards for this pollutant. Ozone nonattainment areas include most of California and the Northeast corridor from Northern Virginia to New York, as well as many of the largest metropolitan areas throughout the nation. Over the years, updated ozone standards have become increasingly stringent, which is resulting in a backlash over the cost of compliance. The compliance requirements are particularly challenging for rural areas in the West, where imported pollution and less than ideal meteorological conditions make compliance difficult and costly. Costs have not been used when determining air quality standards, but this may not be the best policy decision. The EPA is ratcheting down the ozone standards and this will add many new nonattainment areas with new responsibilities for controlling air emissions. This can be expected to lead to more confrontation between the regulated states and the EPA.

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