Sen. Carper Disappointed in White House’s Decision on Public Health Ozone Standard

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, responded to the White House’s decision to not finalize its proposed air quality standards for ground level ozone. Sen. Carper’s statement follows:

“For the past two years, we have waited for this Administration to reconsider the legally indefensible 2008 ozone public health standard. I am disappointed by today’s announcement that the Administration has decided to walk away from this endeavor. I am very concerned about the ramifications this action may have on the health of thousands of Delawareans and millions of Americans that are vulnerable to the harmful effects of ozone air pollution.

“The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to base air quality public health standards on the best science available. In 2008, the Bush Administration EPA updated and strengthened the 1997 ozone air quality standard from .084 parts per million to .075 parts per million. Unfortunately, the EPA ignored its own independent science advisory board, which unanimously agreed the science pointed to a range between .06 and .07 parts per million. This set into motion a lawsuit by 14 states – including my state of Delaware – and other groups in an effort to strengthen the public health standard.

“Two years ago, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson decided that the 2008 ozone health standard was indeed not based on the best science available, would not protect public health, would not stand up in court, and therefore should be reconsidered. The 2008 ozone standard was never implemented. Since then, the public has been living under an outdated, ineffective and inadequate ozone public health standard established in 1997. This is a standard that the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration have both agreed fails to sufficiently protect public health.

“I honestly believe the Administration could have picked a number in the range recommended by the science advisory board that would have protected public health, been legally defensible, and would have seen greater benefits than costs. Some in the business and environmental communities may not have been 100 percent happy, but there was a way forward to clean up our air and protect our economy. Unfortunately, failing to update the 2008 ozone standard means this Administration will have to defend a public health standard that does not stand the test of science. Even EPA Administrator Jackson has said it is ‘legally indefensible.’ This decision means the courts will likely tie the hands of the EPA, reducing the flexibility the agency may have for enforcement and creating even more regulatory uncertainty for states and businesses. Also failing to update the standard may mean we will continue to live under a 1997 faulty ozone health standard – which is unacceptable.

“This decision leaves me with more questions than answers. To that end, I intend to hold a hearing in the Clean Air Subcommittee with White House officials to explain these actions and the possible ramifications.”