Science and Air Quality Improvements Take Time

Jul 31, 2017

Hunt_Tim-WebBy Timothy Hunt
Senior Director for Air Quality Programs

The House-passed Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 (HR 806) balances air quality with sound regulatory processes and provides the forest-products industry with much-needed certainly. The Senate should move quickly to pass a common-sense approach that will also support global competitiveness for our businesses in rural and urban communities across the nation. Here’s why.

The current Clean Air Act forces the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake monumental reviews of the six National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every five years. History shows this timeframe is inadequate.

These statutory deadlines when missed provide an easy target for lawsuits that put the EPA on unreasonable regulatory schedules that limit opportunity for full public engagement on complex policy issues. Knowledge of health and environmental impacts does not change so rapidly given the time needed to weigh all new evidence. The bill’s ten-year NAAQS review cycle is a long overdue, more realistic regulatory improvement supported by many states who bear the brunt of implementing the NAAQS program.

In addition, paper, paperboard and wood product mills need regulatory certainty when making capital investments to modernize, add new products, increase efficiencies, and stay competitive in the global marketplace. HR 806 slows down the regulatory treadmill that forces mills to constantly look over their shoulders and ask, “What is coming down the pike next?” Knowing the obligations in place for the next decade allows companies to plan with greater certainty while still sustaining the environment.

Air quality in this country has improved tremendously in the last several decades with significant investments by industry, including billions by the paper and wood products sector. Further progress from pending air quality programs will take time for their benefits to be fully realized. Deferring compliance with the 2015 Ozone NAAQS until 2025, as the legislation proposes, allows accounting for these air quality gains and avoids unnecessary controls in or near areas that will meet the standard anyway. Promoting economic growth while allowing air quality to improve is a win-win proposition for everyone.