Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 12, 2017


The Trump administration can notch another win in its efforts to make sense out of the regulatory morass facing business. This time from EPA:

The EPA announced the delay in the ozone pollution rule enforcement late Tuesday, saying that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had notified state governors.

Under the new schedule, the EPA will make final decisions on which areas are out of compliance with the ozone rule by October 2018.

Determinations on so-called nonattainment areas were going to be proposed this month and finalized this October under the original plan.

In 2015 the Obama administration set the ozone level at 70 parts per billion, down from 75 ppb set in 2008. But unfortunately for state and local governments, as well as businesses, the Obama administration delayed issuing guidance on the 2008 standard until 2016. As a result, they were working on meeting two sets of standards simultaneously.

Areas not meeting the new standard would have to develop complex plans for reducing emissions that lead to the creation of ozone. These areas could see halts in economic development and infrastructure construction. In a 2015 report, Grinding to a Halt, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy noted the stricter standard would create “No Growth Zones” across the country in areas that couldn’t meet the standard. Projects from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado, to Southern California were at risk.

With bipartisan emphasis in Washington on fixing our infrastructure, a regulatory barrier like this one would be counterproductive.

In addition, business investment could get hit. As EPA developed its 2015 standard, places like Baton Rouge, La., lost out of manufacturing investment because of worries the area couldn’t meet the stricter standard.

It’s not like air quality has been declining. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Mary Martin, U.S. Chamber energy, clean air, and natural resources policy counsel noted earlier this year in a statement to EPA on implementing the 2015 standard:

States and localities, along with business and industry, have been working hard to improve the nation’s air quality for many years. Indeed, ozone levels have decreased 33% since 1980, 22% since 1990, and 17% since 2000. Those levels will continue to decline as states implement the 2008 ozone standards. EPA itself projects that most of the country will meet the 2015 ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) by 2025 simply by implementing existing air standards, including the 2008 ozone standards.

The delay of the 2015 ozone standard, gives the agency time to examine the most up-to-date air quality data as well as states’ suggestions of how to implement it, and it also gives the agency time toconsider reviewing it.

However, it doesn't remove the need for a legislative delay of attainment designations to 2025. A one-year delay doesn't:

  • Solve the issue of simultaneous implementation of the 2008 and 2015 standards;
  • Prevent the requirement that states deploy considerable resources and industry incur significant costs to achieve air quality gains that would occur anyway, without additional cost, only 5 years later;
  • Cure the permitting and offset issues that will impede economic growth.

EPA's delay is helpful, but Congress still must act.

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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