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Trump seeks to ease air quality compliance

12 Apr 2018 21:23 (+01:00 GMT)
Trump seeks to ease air quality compliance

Washington, 12 April (Argus) — US President Donald Trump wants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ease compliance burdens for states and industries covered by two major Clean Air Act programs.

Trump today directed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to implement federal air quality standards and the regional haze rule in ways that will reduce "unnecessary impediments to new manufacturing and business expansion" that can help the US economy. A memo from Trump to Pruitt lays out a number of steps to be taken, including directives that could make it easier for states to claim factors outside their control, such as emissions from international sources and natural events, that impede their ability to meet federal air quality requirements.

"This memorandum helps ensure that EPA carries out its core mission, while reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing," Pruitt said. "International and background sources of air pollution are critical issues facing state, local, and tribal agencies implementing national standards."

A number of states and industry groups have complained that EPA's decision in 2015 to lower the air quality standards for ozone ignored the fact that pollution from other sources would make it virtually impossible for them to comply. EPA under former president Barack Obama said its modeling showed that these so-called background sources would not have any effect on compliance.

The president's memo "will help states to implement the stringent requirements of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to improve air quality without unnecessarily hampering manufacturing and business expansion," American Petroleum Institute senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs Howard Feldman said.

Pruitt, in his prior role as Oklahoma attorney general, joined nine states and a number of industry groups that sued to block the 2015 ozone standards. The case has been on hold since last April, when EPA said it was reviewing the standard. The agency told the court on 9 April that it has not yet decided whether to keep or revise the ozone limits, set at 70 parts per billion.

The president's memo also sets deadlines for EPA to review state compliance plans for air quality standards, as well as for pre-construction permits for new industrial facilities. It also directs EPA work with states to replace federal plans that EPA has implemented for the haze rule, which seeks to improve visibility around national parks and other protected areas.

EPA has yet to finish its designations for the 2015 standards. A federal court last month gave the agency until 30 April to do so, after it missed an October 2017 deadline for the designations. EPA last year determined that 2,600 counties met the standards but left undetermined the status of 450 counties and parishes, saying it had more work to complete.

After EPA makes the determination, states must develop compliance plans for those areas, which could include requiring additional reductions in NOx emissions from power plants, refiners and other industrial sources.

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