This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took two next steps toward the implementation of the 2008 air quality standards for ground-level ozone, which is commonly referred to as smog: it finalized designations for every area of the country, with the exception of the Chicago-Naperville and Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin area and issued a final rule relating to such designations.
Before we get into the details of EPA’s actions, a bit of background… The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, the main component in smog, and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The law further requires EPA to review these standards every five years. As required by the CAA, in March 2008, EPA issued a new NAAQS for ground level ozone of 0.075 parts per million (ppm). Later in 2009, EPA announced that it was initiating a rulemaking that would reconsider this standard, primarily to bring it in line with the recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which was in the 0.060 to 0.070 ppm range. However, as we reported, in September of 2011, citing the economic downturn and the fact that it will be revised again in 2013 as part of the CAA’s five year policy, President Obama announced that he would put this rulemaking on hold and later that same month, EPA said that it would move forward with implementation of the 2008 standard of 0.075 ppm.