On Friday, EPA announced that it was reconsidering its 2020 decision to leave the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone unchanged. The reconsideration will be based on the existing record. The notice does not identify any specific perceived flaws in the 2020 decision. However, EPA stated that it:
will reconsider the decision to retain the ozone NAAQS in a manner that adheres to rigorous standards of scientific integrity.
The tone of the notice does seem to be full of portent. I am sure that I am not the only reader who thinks that the likelihood that EPA will affirm the 2020 decision is approximately zero.
I support the reconsideration and there seems little doubt that the literal terms of the statute require a lower ozone NAAQS. Otherwise, the phrase “adequate margin of safety” would have little meaning.
On the other hand, government regulation is about making hard choices – and the structure of the Clean Air Act leaves us without a mechanism to make those hard choices. The NAAQS-setting process is supposed to be purely scientific. And once the NAAQS are set, EPA is required through the SIP process to assure that they are attained.
I remain one of the few who believe in stringent regulation and the use of cost-benefit analysis in getting there. I still think that the CAA is flawed and I don’t think I can improve on the discussion of those flaws that I provided at the time of EPA’s decision in 2020 to retain the 2015 ozone NAAQS.
Still whistling in the wind, I fear.