EPA's lower ozone standard tough for Arizona to hit

If rule is allowed to stand it puts a costly burden on state, senator says

KINGMAN - The EPA has proposed to lower ozone standards for Arizona, creating a "significant challenge" for the state because of its geography, weather and mix of emission sources, an official with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in early October that the new ozone standard would be 0.070 parts per million, down from 0.075 ppm.

Implementation of the new, lower standards will be difficult in Arizona, said Eric Massey, ADEQ Air Quality Division Director.

Nine of 10 counties monitored by ADEQ frequently exceed the new ozone standard, based on data from 2012 to 2014. Those counties could potentially be classified as being in "non-attainment" of the ozone standard, he said.

Mohave County is among five Arizona counties that are not currently monitored by ADEQ for ozone concentrations.

"With the exception of Yuma and Yavapai counties, ozone levels across the state have been getting better," Massey said.

Concentrations in Yuma and Yavapai are slightly worse than they were between 2011 and 2013. Navajo is the only county in Arizona consistently in compliance with the new standard, he noted.

Massey said he expects the majority of Mohave County to be considered "unclassifiable" under the new standard because there are no ozone monitors.

Clark County (Nev.) shows ozone concentrations above the new standard, and those monitors could be considered representative of a small portion of Mohave County, placing the county outside of the attainment standard.

"It's possible, but unlikely, given past experience," Massey said.

ADEQ will continue to monitor the designation processes in Nevada and will notify residents in Mohave County if Nevada's monitors are considered representative of any portion of the county.

Few options

ADEQ and its partners work to identify primary sources of air pollution that lead to "non-attainment" and develop strategies for reducing those emissions.

The primary source of ozone and its precursor pollutants are cars, trucks, buses and other internal combustion engines.

Industries are not considered a significant pollution source, presenting a major challenge for Arizona as the EPA and state of California are the only jurisdictions with authority to require additional air pollution reductions from vehicles.

Particularly in rural areas such as Mohave and La Paz counties, options to reduce emissions are few, Massey said. Vehicle emissions are less concentrated outside of major metropolitan areas such as Phoenix and Tucson.

"Arizona's geographical location plays a significant role in ozone formation and levels, as air pollution does not recognize political boundaries," Massey said. "Despite the most stringent ozone controls in the country, Arizona's upwind neighbor, California, has struggled with ozone levels for decades."

Arizona will rely heavily on new vehicle emissions standards and limitations on other internal combustion engines as part of its pollution control strategy, Massey said.

Arizona is known for its sunshine, a critical contributor to ozone creation, and emissions from national and international transport through the state will add to the complexity, he said.

Compliance cost

Estimates of the cost associated with complying with the lower standard vary greatly, depending on the source, Massey said.

The National Manufacturer's Association expressed concern that the new ozone standard could be the most expensive regulation ever issued by EPA. Had EPA set the standard at the low end of the proposed range (65 parts per billion), the cost of compliance in Arizona alone would be $5 billion, according to the manufacturer's association.

EPA estimated that the cost to the economy of the new standard would be about $1.4 billion and that estimated public health benefits might reduce costs by $2.9 billion to $5.9 billion nationally.

"Unfortunately, EPA's proposed tightening of the ozone standard will represent an unnecessary and costly burden our economy," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "EPA's own science advisers disagree on the need for ratcheting down even further on ozone."

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., slammed the EPA for "blatantly ignoring the facts" and moving forward with proposed regulations to "drastically" expand ground-level ozone standards.

"It's shameful that EPA Administrator (Gina) McCarthy ignored the advice of physicians throughout the country and 'made a judgment call' to move forward with this extremely costly, burdensome and misguided regulation," Gosar said in a statement. "Hard-working Arizona families can't afford billion-dollar regulations imposed by D.C. bureaucrats on a whim that aren't grounded in sound science."

Gosar said Congress should immediately reject this new regulation that will dramatically harm American manufacturing and global competitiveness, resulting in more U.S. jobs being sent overseas.