EPA issues documents as part of the review of ozone and particulate matter air quality standards

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 2, 2005 — As part of a process to ensure that EPA air quality standards reflect the latest air pollution and health effects research and science, the Agency is issuing draft documents on ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM), two of the six criteria air pollutants regulated under CAA, for public review and comment.

EPA is releasing the first external review draft of the “Air Quality Criteria for Ozone and Other Photochemical Oxidants” for a 90-day public comment period and expert external scientific peer review. The Agency is also issuing the second draft staff assessment of the policy implications of the latest scientific and technical information about PM or particle pollution. The documents do not change current standards; they are preliminary steps that could lead toward future air quality policy decisions. More information follows on the air quality standard development process, the ozone criteria document, second draft staff paper on PM, and recent EPA actions to protect and improve air quality in the United States.

Process for developing National Ambient Air Quality Standards

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to periodically review its National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The review process is thorough and deliberate. EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) each play important roles in air quality standard review and development. First, ORD develops an “Air Quality Criteria Document (AQCD)” a compilation and evaluation of the latest scientific knowledge useful in assessing the health and welfare effects of the air pollutant. In developing this document, EPA must consider the advice of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) a review committee created under CAA and part of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). Based on the criteria document, the advice of CASAC and public comment, EPA then develops a “staff paper” that helps translate the science into terms that can be used for making policy decisions. The staff paper, prepared by OAR, includes recommendations to the EPA Administrator about any revisions to the standards that might be needed to ensure that they protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, as well as protecting the environment and the public welfare.

Before either the criteria document or staff paper can be used as the basis for any policy decisions, they undergo rigorous review by the scientific community, industry, public interest groups, the general public and CASAC. Based on the scientific assessments in the criteria document and on the information and recommendations in the staff paper, the EPA Administrator determines whether it is appropriate to propose revisions to the standards. More information on this process is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/naaqsfin/naaqs.html .

Draft Air Quality Criteria document for ozone

EPA has released the first external review draft of the “Air Quality Criteria for Ozone and Other Photochemical Oxidants,” for a 90-day public comment period and expert external scientific peer review. Tropospheric or surface-level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (ozone precursors) react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. Ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function, and aggravate asthma. The draft criteria document released today revises the 1996 ozone AQCD, which was the basis for the current ozone standards set in 1997.

The CASAC will review this draft criteria document at a public meeting, anticipated to take place in May 2005. The date and arrangements for the CASAC meeting will be announced by the SAB. The draft document is available online at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=114523.

Second draft ‘Staff Paper’ for particulate matter

EPA released its second draft staff assessment of the policy implications of the latest scientific and technical information about PM or particle pollution. This draft document, or “Staff paper,” is part of EPA’s regular review of its National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter. It presents draft recommendations for retaining or tightening the suite of PM standards for the EPA Administrator’s consideration. The second draft’s recommendations include potential revisions to fine and inhalable or “thoracic” coarse particle standards and consideration of a short term secondary standard for fine particles to protect visibility in urban areas.

This draft document does not change any of the national air quality standards for particle pollution currently in effect. The CASAC will provide comment on this second draft of the staff paper at a meeting to be held in April 2005. This meeting will be open to the public who may provide comment as well. EPA will integrate comments into a final staff paper.

The final staff paper will provide recommended options for the Administrator to consider. The Administrator will propose action on the particle standards by Dec. 20, 2005. This may or may not involve changing the standards. EPA will finalize this review by Sept. 27, 2006.

More information on the second draft staff paper for particulate matter is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks4.html#pmstaff2.

Recent and upcoming regulations to improve air quality

EPA has taken significant actions to help all areas across the country significantly improve air quality by reducing ozone and particulate matter. These national clean air programs include:

* In April 2004, EPA set new more protective standards for ground-level ozone and designated areas in the United States that do not meet that standard.

* In December 2004, the Agency established the first national standard for fine particles (PM2.5) and designated areas that do not meet the new standard.

* EPA’s regional ozone transport rule, known as the NOx SIP Call, will significantly reduce NOx emissions in 19 eastern states and the District of Columbia by approximately 600,000 tons starting in the summer of 2004 and by nearly 1 million tons when fully implemented.

* The President’s Clear Skies legislation would bring many areas into attainment with the fine particle and ozone standards. EPA has also proposed a rule, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which would also bring many areas into attainment with the new air quality standards in the eastern states. EPA expects to issue this as a final rule in March 2005.

* Clean Air Diesel Rules targeting diesel emissions from on road and off road diesel engines will help to significantly cut NOx and particulate matter emissions nationwide.

* EPA is phasing in stringent tailpipe standards for cars, trucks and SUVs that also reduce NOx and VOC emissions.

For more information on these actions, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cleanair2004/.

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