EPA is under no obligation to develop new regulations at this time. The Clean Air Act - the legal basis for most federal air quality regulations - requires the EPA to review national air quality standards every five years. If they find that current thresholds are detrimental to health, the EPA can go through the process of setting a new, scientifically-backed standard. The last time these standards were reviewed was three years ago. Legally, EPA is not obliged to initiate a review for another two years.
So, why is it doing so now? Is smog on the rise? Nope. According to the EPA, ozone levels have been falling year after year. Since 1980, ozone emissions have fallen by nearly 50 percent. And yes, new standards played a significant role in this. But it takes time for companies to develop and implement technologies that will enable them to comply in cost effective ways. Small companies in particular find this difficult because they have fewer resources to use in complying with regulations.
But does the science even suggest that these standards are warranted?
The basis for the EPA's regulatory ratcheting down rests on two very small studies, which the authors themselves say is not a basis for stricter standards. Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) member, and author of one of the studies stated:
[EPA’s] approach amounts to attempting to find effects in a very few individuals when the statistical tests are not significant, which is a dangerous precedent – especially in this case where we are looking at small effects in 3 of 30 vs. 1 of 30, a pitiful number on which to attempt to base policy...
Senator James Inhofe (R – OK), Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works committee echoed concerns recently:
Today I am calling on the Obama-EPA to halt its plan to move forward with the reconsideration of the ozone standard. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said that she is basing her decision on the recommendations of CASAC. Yet an investigation by my staff has uncovered an apparent lack of impartiality and financial conflicts of interest among the members of EPA's science advisory panels. EPA is clearly politicizing the science, all in the name of an environmental activism that will destroy jobs. This further undermines the scientific integrity of the Obama Administration, and in particular, the EPA.
Clearly, there is not scientific agreement that new standards would have any health benefits. With billions of dollars and millions of jobs potentially at stake, the administration would be wise to take a closer look.