EPA Cuts Deal on Tougher Ozone Standard

Published January 1, 2003

The Environmental Protection Agency has reached an out-of-court settlement with nine plaintiffs, including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, and Alliance for Clean Energy, to strictly enforce tough ozone regulations drafted by the Clinton administration.

The settlement, announced on November 13, requires EPA to demand more comprehensive data from individual states regarding their compliance with federal ozone standards. EPA will then analyze the data to identify any need for enforcement actions.

Regulations drafted in 1997 limited atmospheric ozone levels to 0.08 parts per million, down from the previous standard of 0.12 parts per million. The regulations also required ozone measurements to be taken over an eight-hour period rather than a one-hour period.

EPA had yet to enforce the new standards, largely because of Bush administration concerns that the Clinton-era standards were too strict. However, under pressure from the pending lawsuit, the Bush EPA has said it will vigorously enforce the tighter standards.

Under the terms of the settlement, EPA will determine by April 2004 which areas of the country have failed to meet the new ozone standards. EPA will also require individual states to identify all counties that have failed to meet the new standards.