Over the past four decades, compliance with the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) has proven to be among the most costly of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. EPA tightened the primary and secondary ozone standards to 70 parts per billion (ppb) in late 2015, which will likely result in more areas of the country being identified as failing to attain the standards. Areas designated “nonattainment” face significant consequences, ranging from regulatory constraints on existing emission sources to expensive emission offset requirements for new or expanded facilities.
Companies avoid the most rigid requirements and significant costs when the areas in which they operate are designated “attainment.” Companies still have a window of time to engage in EPA’s area designation process and avoid unnecessary nonattainment designations. Even in areas where monitoring data conclusively demonstrates nonattainment, companies can act to mitigate costs and secure operational flexibility. These strategies require engagement at the federal, state and local levels to support adaptable and efficient compliance mechanisms in SIP revisions after the designation process is finalized.
Given the Trump administration’s “pro-business” orientation, industry may be able to play a more influential role in the designation process and program design than it has in the past. Companies must act in the near term to pursue advocacy and planning to help leverage potential compliance flexibilities. Especially in states that EPA indicates will be most affected by the more stringent standards — California, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey — proactive engagement can enable companies to meaningfully reduce the cost of compliance.