House Adopts Bill to Delay Implementation of 2015 Ozone Standards

June 8, 2016 – The House of Representatives—by a vote of 234 to 177—approved H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016.  The bill, introduced in March 2016 by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), was reported by the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a party-line vote on May 18, 2016.  H.R. 4775 would, among other things, postpone implementation of the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone by up to eight years; allow consideration of technological feasibility when EPA sets NAAQS for any criteria pollutant; extend the NAAQS review cycle from five years to 10 years; exempt permitted sources from new or revised NAAQS if EPA does not publish implementation rules or guidance when it publishes the NAAQS—instead, sources would be allowed to meet the preconstruction review requirements of an outdated standard; allow stagnation, drought or high temperatures to be considered exceptional events; eliminate requirements for contingency measures in Extreme ozone nonattainment areas; and require EPA to report to Congress on emissions emanating from outside the U.S. and conduct a study on ozone formation.  Six amendments to the bill were considered: 1) to provide that no additional funds be authorized to implement the Act (Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-KY)—passed by a vote of 236-170; 2) to allow federal, state, local or tribal permitting agencies to opt out of provisions of the bill exempting permitted sources from new or revised NAAQS in the absence of timely EPA rules or guidance if a permitting agency determines that issuing a preconstruction permit under an outdated and less protective standard is likely to have specified adverse impacts (Rep. Bobby Rush, D-IL)—failed by a vote of 171-235; 3) to strike consideration of technological feasibility when establishing NAAQS (Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ)—failed by a vote of 169 to 242; 4) to call for the EPA study on ozone formation required by the bill to analyze the relative contribution from wildfires (Rep. Paul Gozar, R-AZ)—passed by voice vote; 5) to amend the Clean Air Act (CAA) to repeal the exemption for aggregation of emissions from oil and gas sources and add provisions requiring EPA to list hydrogen sulfide as a hazardous air pollutant (Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO)—failed by a vote of 160 to 251; and 6) to provide that the bill would not apply if the EPA Administrator, in consultation with the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, finds that application of any section could harm human health or the environment (Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC)—failed by a vote of 169 to 242.  The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on June 7, 2016 expressing strong opposition to H.R. 4775, stating that it “would undermine the vitally important environmental and health protections of the CAA” and indicating that if the President were presented with the bill, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it.