Monthly Archives: September 2011

Topic: The EPA’s New Ozone Rule Part I

Welcome to the very first topic of this blog, The EPA’s New Ozone Rule. It’s a rather long topic, consisting of 24 posts. If you arrived at this post via a link, you can navigate between posts using the arrows that appear above each post heading. Click on the right arrow (→) to go to the next post. Click on the left arrow (←) to go to the previous post.

On September 2, 2011, the White House released a statement that President Obama had requested the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lisa Jackson to withdraw a recent EPA proposal to tighten standards for ground-level ozone1.  This proposal would lower the maximum allowable concentration of ground-level ozone from the current standard set in 1997 of 0.08 parts per million (ppm)2 3 to somewhere in a range between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm4.

This change in policy evoked cheers from political conservative and business circles and outrage from the environmental community. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, was quoted by the newspaper USA Today as saying, “The president’s decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work. EPA’s proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority.”5 The same article quotes Michael Steel, spokesperson for Speaker of the House John Boehner as saying, “We’re glad that the White House responded to the speaker’s letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation.”6 On the other hand, environmentalists were furious. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, was quoted by the USA Today article as saying, “The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health.”7  Conservatives and business interests, then, see the new rule as an undue burden on business. Environmental groups regard the rule as vital in protecting the public health. Who is correct?

It is possible that both sides have valid points and that the truth lies somewhere between them. I suspect that the rule would place a heavy burden on business, but not as heavy as its opponents make it out to be. Similarly, the rule would probably contribute to public health, although not as critically as its proponents think it will. Perhaps it would be wise to delay implementing the rule, but not to postpone it indefinitely.

I hope in my next postings to analyze the proposed rule, spell out exactly what claims are being made for it, and examine closely the claims of its opponents.


  1. Statement by the President on the Ozone National Ambient Air Qualities Standards. White House website. To view, click here.
  2. National Ambient Air Quality Standards. EPA website. To view, click here.
  3. The 1997 standard is widely quoted as being 0.084 ppm rather than 0.08 ppm. This is because the EPA only demands an accuracy of 0.01 ppm. Therefore, any reading of ozone concentration between 0.075 ppm and 0.084 ppm would be rounded to 0.08 ppm and be considered in compliance. However, a reading of 0.085 ppm would be rounded to 0.09 ppm and would not be considered in compliance. Practically speaking then, 0.084 is the highest reading possible that remains in compliance. See EPA’s March 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ground-Level Ozone: General Overview, p. 3. To view, click here. By the way, this is an excellent review of the case against ground-level ozone.
  4. Federal Register Vol. 75 No. 11, p. 2938 Tuesday, January 19, 2010. Docket no. EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172. To view, click here.
  5. USA Today, “Obama decides against tougher ozone standards” September 2, 2011, paragraph 14. To view, click here.
  6. Ibid. Paragraph 7
  7. Ibid. Paragraph 26