The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a statutory duty under the Clean Air Act to periodically review the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six primary pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution and sulfur dioxide. These reviews are designed to ensure that the air quality standards are set at levels to protect public health.

A combination of cleaner gasoline and diesel fuels, modernized equipment and facilities, and more fuel-efficient vehicles have helped reduce emissions of air pollutants by 62 percent between 1980 and 2013 — even as vehicle miles traveled went up over 95 percent. Progress is clear — ozone concentrations under the current rules have dropped by 18 percent since 2000.

Reviews of air quality standards should be based on scientific analysis and conclusions, but too often EPA embraces an obvious politicization of the air quality standard-setting process that could mean unnecessary cost increases for consumers, job losses for workers and less energy security for America. Our national progress on air quality has been great, and we can build on this progress without going to some of the unnecessary and potentially very damaging standards EPA has proposed in the past.

“Communities and businesses must be allowed to continue the progress they have made without the uncertainty and unnecessary cost for all americans created by shifting standards to levels that achieve no demonstrable health benefit.”

EPA creates air quality trends using measurements from monitors located across the country. The table below shows that air quality based on concentrations of the common pollutants has improved nationally since 1980.

Percent Change in Air Quality 1980 vs 2013 1990 vs 2013 2000 vs 2013
Carbon Monoxide (CO) -84 -76 -59
Ozone (O3) (8-hr) -33 -23 -18
Lead (Pb) -92 -87 -60
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) (annual) -58 -50 -40
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) (1-hour) -60 -46 -29
PM10 (24-hr) -34 -30
PM2.5 (annual) -34
PM2.5 (24-hr) -34
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) (1-hour) -81 -76 -62

NOTES: – Trend data not available
Negative numbers indicate improvements in air quality
In 2010, EPA established new 1-hour average National Ambient Air Quality Standards for NO2 and SO2

The oil and gas industry has invested $284 billion since 1990 to improve its environmental performance – investments that build on past progress and that will continue to improve air quality in the years ahead. Like all Americans, we want a clean and healthy environment for ourselves, our neighbors and our families.

Sensible government regulations can contribute to safety and the protection of health without impeding energy development, job creation, revenue generation and economic growth. With more new rules coming in the next few years, including possible new ozone standards, it’s critical that our government ensure that proposed regulations make sense and that standards aren’t changed needlessly.

The oil and natural gas industry operates under extensive rules that along with the industry’s own best practices and standards have enabled it to steadily improve safety and reduce environmental impacts. Our fuels are much cleaner today, and so are our facilities; this contributes significantly to decades of improving air quality – as EPA emissions data confirms.

We can build on this progress without going to stricter and potentially very damaging standards that EPA may soon finalize. Air quality continues to improve under current regulations and the oil and natural gas industry is committed to making the air we all breathe cleaner while creating new jobs and growing the economy.

Air Quality continues to improve as communities comply with existing standards.

Ozone Concentration

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2013.

Current EPA standards for ozone are 75 parts per billion (ppb). They were adopted in 2008 but EPA’s implementation guidance for the 2008 rule has just been released. Even so, air quality is improving.

Take a look at California. In 2008, 34 of the state’s counties exceeded 75 ppb, according to EPA data. In 2014 the number of California counties over 75 ppb was just 20. We should let states finish implementing the current standards before we start proposing new ones.

As is clear on the map, about 40 percent of the country’s population lives in areas that exceed 75 ppb standards. As the standards are implemented, through the adoption of emissions reduction plans in the individual states, air quality will continue improving.

Projected Nonattainment in the United States (70 ppb)

Projected new ozone standards attainment in the united states

Source: URS.

An analysis of the three most recent years of ozone data show that at the current standards, 217 counties are measured or projected to be out of attainment or in metropolitan areas that do not meet the standards. EPA is lowering those standards to 70 parts per billion, which would increase the number of counties in nonattainment to 958, a fourfold increase in the number of counties and county equivalents impacted. This includes even pristine areas with no industrial activity such as national parks.

The reality is that the EPA’s ozone standards approach or are lower than peak background ozone levels, which could effectively shut down new economic activity. Businesses of all sizes could be forced to navigate additional layers of bureaucracy and red tape to satisfy added permitting requirements. This could even prevent communities from improving aging infrastructure such as highways or waste treatment facilities.

Tightening the standards will not improve air quality any faster, but these regulations could hurt jobs and the economy by imposing unachievable emission reduction requirements on virtually every part of the nation. With new standards that approach or are even lower than peak naturally occurring levels, virtually any human activity that produced emissions could ultimately be restricted or affected. Standards that strict aren’t justified from a health perspective and certainly aren’t needed to continue air quality progress that’s being made under current standards.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

“EPA also should consider whether natural background concentrations would preclude compliance with EPA’s proposed standards in certain geographic areas. For example, EPA estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the seasonal mean ozone levels in Florida are attributed to background contributions.”

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality

“LDEQ has concerns that a strengthening of the ozone standard may result in ozone exceedances due to background concentrations of naturally occurring ozone mixed with anthropogenic background levels….EPA instead suggests that the states pursue regulatory relief in the form of exclusion, exceptional events or relief from adopting stringent requirements by using the rural or international transport provisions. Once again this presents an onerous burden for the states. EPA does not have to prove these exceptions or exclusions, the states must perform these exercises, subject to EPA review and approval.”

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality

“EPA has not been able to confirm the natural background levels for ozone. This varies from region to region with the Southeast United States having higher background concentrations. As EPA lowers the standard, the background contribution becomes more significant.”

Nevada Division of Environmental Protection

“The intent of the CAA has never been to compel air quality authorities to mandate reduction measures that will prove to be futile where NAAQS violations are the result of elevated background concentrations, as is the case with ozone in Nevada and the intermountain West.”

Ohio EPA

“Ohio EPA does not agree that the new ozone standard should be mostly comprised of background ozone itself. As a new standard becomes closer to background levels, states have less ability to develop practical control strategies to meet the standard.”

U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and National Association of Regional Councils

“Because of the financial and administrative burden that would come with a more stringent NAAQS for ozone, we ask EPA to delay implementation of a new standard until the 2008 standard is fully implemented.”

Governors Hutchinson, Otter, Deal, Pence, Jindal, Bryant, Abbott, Fallin, LePage, Walker, and Haley.

“At a time when we should be focusing on growing the economy and creating jobs, the EPA is imposing a steady stream of complex, expensive new regulations that require an army of policy and technical experts and lawyers to decipher, respond to, and ultimately implement. The proposed NAAQS for ozone is the most onerous and expensive yet.”

Cal Dooley, President of the American Chemistry Council – New York Times

“We’re facing a series of regulations, and the cumulative cost of compliance and the burden of permitting is significant. An industry such as ours is poised to make significant investments in growth, but these regulations make that harder.”

Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers – The Hill

“This new ozone regulation threatens to be the most expensive ever imposed on industry in America and could jeopardize recent progress in manufacturing by placing massive new costs on manufacturers and closing off counties and states to new business by blocking projects at the permitting stage.”

Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Washington Times

“The EPA’s proposal to lower the ozone standard will have potentially damaging economic consequences for this country. [The stricter standard] translates into restriction on expansion, permitting delays, increased costs to industry and an impact to transportation planning.”

James M. Inhofe, Senator – Los Angeles Times

“Today we are breathing the cleanest air since the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s, and our country should first look to meet the current ozone standard before we even consider adding more burdensome, costly mandates.”

Fred Upton, U.S. Representative, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee – Bloomberg

“This proposal threatens to slam the door on new economic growth and job creation and stop our energy and manufacturing renaissance in its tracks.”

Will Allison, Director of the State Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division -Denver Post

“Certainly a lower standard will raise additional challenges for the state of Colorado. Natural background levels of ozone in the West are relatively high. And targeting ozone is complicated because ozone isn’t emitted directly but is formed when sunlight hits emissions from vehicles, power plants and factories. “All this makes ozone reduction especially challenging. But we have implemented and will continue to look at practical, cost-effective strategies for those sources where we can make a difference.”

Richard Metcalf, the Director of Environmental Affairs for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association- New Orleans Times Picayune

expressed concern that the new emissions rules would discourage new businesses from coming to Louisiana and halt much-needed public works projects. “Say I want to repave a road in New Orleans,” he said. “If they expand the emissions standards and New Orleans falls into non-attainment, you’d have to re-evaluate every road project and assign it a higher budget.”

ANGA Comments on Proposed Ozone Standards

“Safe and responsible oil and natural gas production in shale regions across the country is supporting 1.7 million jobs and $238 billion in economic activity every year. This has helped fuel a renaissance in manufacturing projected to add 1 million new jobs by 2025. Meanwhile our nation’s air quality has improved dramatically. However, today’s proposed ozone rule from the EPA threatens this progress. It is a step in the wrong direction and would hinder our ability to experience a sustained economic recovery.”

Lisa Murkowski, Senator, Senior Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee- Christian Science Monitor

“EPA’s proposed tightening of ozone standards threatens to put large swaths of the country into non-attainment and could be the costliest regulation in US history, which would be devastating to the economy…” “Yet again we’re seeing the Obama administration release an incredibly expensive regulation on the eve of a major national holiday,” Senator Murkowski said. “The administration is clearly hoping to release this at a time when the vast majority of Americans are focused elsewhere, and that alone should tell us something about it.”

  1. Potential Economic Impacts of a Stricter Ozone Standard – NERA Economic Consulting
  2. Environmental Expenditures Study – API
  3. NAAQS Ozone Values – API
  4. Airtrends – EPA
  5. Air Quality Statistics Report – EPA
  6. The Green Book Nonattainment Areas for Criteria Pollutants – EPA
  7. Comments on US EPA’s Proposed Reconsideration of the 2008 NAAQS for Ozone
  8. Crew Change: Millennials Hit the Oil Patch – Business Week
  9. Study of Construction Employment in Marcellus Shale Related Oil and Gas Industry 2008-2014
  10. Draft Letter on CASAC’s Review of the EPA’s Second Draft Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards – API
  11. Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards Letter – White House
  12. Comments on Proposed Ozone Standards – U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and National Association of Regional Councils
  13. State Environmental Agency Perspectives on Background Ozone & Regulatory Relief