Texas, Business Community Join Fight Against Ozone Rule

Published January 5, 2016

In late December, Texas has filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s new, stricter ozone regulations. Texas’s suit just beat the Christmas deadline to file challenges to the rule and brings the final number of states challenging it to nine. States previously filing suits against the ozone rule include Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this year finalized a plan to cut the amount of acceptable surface-level ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the rule would harm the economy while delivering little if any environmental benefit above what Texas’s existing ozone plan already delivers. “Areas of the country that fail to comply with these impossible standards will be subject to costly new regulations that will harm our economy and kill jobs,” says Paxton in a statement issued upon filing the lawsuit. “Texas has proven that we can reduce ambient ozone concentrations without stifling growth, and my office will continue to defend our state from the EPA’s harmful and overreaching regulations.”

The states previously filing lawsuits challenging the ozone rule in October argued the EPA failed to conduct an appropriate scientific review before issuing the new standards.

Business Community Joins Fight

Two prominent business associations also just beat the Christmas deadline for challenging the Obama administration’s new ozone rule. Arguing the new ozone rules will be almost impossible to meet without punishing local communities with much higher energy costs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute filed suit on behalf of their members to fight the stricter rules.

The ozone standard has been lowered twice since 1997. It was lowered to 80 ppb from 120 ppb in 1997, and from 80 ppb to 75 ppb in 2008 just before Barack Obama became president. The business community notes some states and communities have only recently had their state implementation plans for the previous 75 ppb standard approved, and no city or state has had time to fully implement their EPA approved plans and thus show whether they could even meet the less stringent standard, much less the new one.

“Our nation’s air has been getting cleaner without costly new regulations, but the administration ignored science by changing the ozone standards before states could fully implement existing standards,” says API Vice President and General Counsel Stacy Linden in a statement. “Tightening the standards will not improve air quality any faster, but these regulations could hurt jobs and the economy by imposing unachievable emission reduction requirements on virtually every part of the nation.” 

Linden noted ground level ozone in the U.S. declined by 18 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to EPA data. 

“Through no fault of their own, many communities have yet to meet EPA’s 2008 ozone standard, making it almost impossible for them to realistically meet the new standard unless they make painful decisions that the public will likely not accept,” says Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy in a statement issued accompanying the filing of the lawsuit. “Moreover, numerous areas with growing populations and high levels of background ozone simply have no means of complying, and will be unfairly punished by EPA as a result.”

“Even pristine areas with no industrial activity such as national parks will be out of attainment. Operating under such stringent requirements could stifle new investment and impair our nation’s economic future,” API’s Linden says in his statement.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.