It’s official. During the last week of August, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld a decision by the Obama Administration to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).
Under the new guidelines, required under the Clean Air Act, all counties within the United States must ensure their air quality sits at 70 parts per billion of ozone instead of 75 parts per billion of ozone. Since the announcement, PMAA, along with a number of other industry organizations, advocated maintaining the existing 75 parts per billion ozone standards. PMAA went so far as to send Congress a letter in 2015, expressing our industry’s opposition to the new EPA rule-making process.
To better understand PMAA’s stance, it’s important to take a closer look at the numbers. Under the previous 75 parts per billion standard, 474 counties in the United States were in nonattainment. By transitioning to the standard of 70 ppb, some experts estimated that 958 counties would be forced into nonattainment status, nearly doubling the country’s nonattainment total.
A county in “nonattainment status” doesn’t comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and is therefore subject to less federal funding. What’s more, nonattainment status prevents counties from investing in infrastructure development and slows down construction projects. Instead of investing in new buildings, municipalities must purchase costly emission-reducing equipment, which requires reformulated gasoline or lower Reid vapor pressure fuels.
Obviously, we’re disappointed with the court’s decision, but we’re still waiting for things to play out. To keep tabs on this and other important industry decisions, subscribe to PMAA’s Weekly Review.