Independence Institute analyst calls for action on EPA ozone caps

March 17, 2016 by michael · Comments Off
Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, regulations 

Today, Independence Institute associate energy policy analyst Simon Lomax testified at an ozone hearing of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

For audio, click here.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. My name is Simon Lomax. I am here today representing the Independence Institute, a Denver think-tank that advocates for limited government. I hold an adjunct position at the institute, where I serve as an associate energy policy analyst.

I know the discussions today have been focused on meeting the 2008 ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. But the elephant in the room is the EPA’s new and much more stringent standard of 70 parts per billion, which was announced in October of last year.

Just yesterday, State Senator Cheri Jahn, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge, and State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, called on the EPA to halt the implementation of the new ozone standard. In the words of Senator Jahn, the EPA is setting Colorado up to fail.

During last year’s debate over the standard, a large and diverse coalition opposed the EPA’s move to tighten the ozone standard when implementation of the 2008 benchmark had hardly begun. The opposition was led by state and local officials, business groups, the construction industry, and even some state regulators.

Here in Colorado, the CDPHE itself expressed concerns about the standard being set close to background levels of ozone which are completely beyond the control of state regulators. Background ozone comes from outside the state, and even outside the country, and also from natural sources like wildfires.

Late last year, the EPA admitted that 10 years from now, the Denver metropolitan area will be stuck in violation of the 70 ppb standard because of background ozone. It’s such a big problem the EPA convened a special workshop in Phoenix, Ariz., last month to face the music from state regulators, including some officials from Colorado.

Most of those discussions were held behind closed doors, but the little that was discussed in public was deeply troubling. The EPA admitted Western states are the most problematic for background ozone, and a NOAA scientist said we do not have the ability to measure in real time how much ozone is coming into the Western U.S. from countries like Mexico and China.

An air quality regulator from Arizona explained the dilemma: Even though industry is a very small portion of the sources of ozone, those sources will take a hit because they are the only ones that state regulators can target.

In other words, the EPA has created such a stringent ozone cap that communities across Colorado and the Western U.S. will be punished for air pollution they didn’t cause. Long-term violation of the federal ozone standard triggers the state implementation plan process, which as you know, gives the EPA veto authority over state and local regulations that deal with ozone-forming emissions.

We are talking about cars, trucks, factories, construction projects and even investments in new and upgraded roads.

A leading emissions researcher at Denver University has warned it’s practically impossible for communities along the Front Range to ever reach the 70 parts per billion ozone standard. This means EPA intervention into our economy and into our communities could be indefinite.

The nature of the problem is clear. The EPA’s new ozone standard goes too far. It will throw large areas of the state into long-term violation of federal law. Violation will impose new restrictions on economic growth and jeopardize badly needed investments in transportation infrastructure.

And because the stringent new standard approaches background ozone levels, which state regulators are powerless to control, there will be little, if any, environmental benefit in return. For months, stakeholders from across government, across the political spectrum and across the economy have stated and restated the problem. But admiring the complexity of the problem won’t solve it.

It will take action to avoid the worst impacts of the EPA’s ozone plan in Colorado. And it’s time to find out what elected officials and environmental regulators are actually going to do about it.

Thank you for hearing me out. I wish you the best of luck with the work you have ahead of you.

The Denver Business Journal’s Cathy Proctor was also there.