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Washington, D.C.—Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., today introduced a bill under which state, local, and tribal governments may develop Early Action Compact (EAC) plans to achieve and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. 

“I'm concerned that the EPA will simply set an air quality standard for ozone that is unattainable for many Western states,” Hatch said. “This bipartisan legislation directs the EPA to implement a program that allows local communities to enter into voluntary cooperative agreements with the EPA to utilize locally crafted solutions to improve air quality so that they can comply with federal standards.”

“Keeping Missourians healthy by cutting down ozone pollution is a goal all stakeholders can get behind—and it’s a goal we can achieve without inflicting economic damage on communities that are struggling to meet these standards,” said McCaskill, who has consistently worked to find pragmatic solutions to protect Missourians’ health in the most economically responsible way possible. “Our bipartisan bill provides a pragmatic and reasonable path forward to help guard Missourians’ health, and Missourians’ livelihoods, while not accepting the false choices of jobs or the environment.”

Background

On November 26, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. If finalized, the proposal would set more stringent standards, lowering both the primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) standards from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to somewhere in a range of 65 to 70 ppb.

Regardless of a change to the standard, many areas throughout the country are at risk of being designated as areas that are in "non-attainment" under the NAAQS. When a particular area in the country is designated as such, it can have significant negative economic implications.

In 2002 the EPA initiated a program called the Early Action Compact (EAC) Program to make available an option that allowed for these areas to enter into a voluntary cooperative agreement with the EPA to take early action to prevent a non-attainment designation and provide for cleaner air sooner than might have occurred by otherwise following the timelines in the Clean Air Act.

This program was was met with great success, and 13/14 areas that voluntarily opted into this program were successful in improving air quality and avoiding a non-attainment designation entirely. Unfortunately, in a law suit, a court found that the EPA was outside its authority under the Clean Air Act to implement such a program and after that first wave from 2002-2007, the EPA was not able to continue the program.

This legislation, without amending the Clean Air Act, would give clear authorization and direct the EPA to implement a similar program to the EAC so that other areas throughout the country can again have the option of taking early action to improve air quality and avoid a non-attainment designation.