Ground Level Ozone Regulations


Ground Level Ozone Regulations Essay, Research Paper

What: In 1997 the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA)

established new ozone standards. The EPA also placed special

restrictions on twenty-two states in the Ohio Valley and Midwest

regions to prevent emissions from coal-burning power plants from

being carried into the New England States by wind currents.

(Tennessee is one of these twenty-two states.) Both of these

rulings were recently either struck down or placed on hold by

Federal Appeals Courts.

Why: The regulations put into place in 1997 by the EPA were

more restrictive than the 1990 standards. The regulations limit

the amount of ground level ozone and fine particle pollution

permitted. Ground level ozone is produced by nitrogen oxide(NOx)

which is created by burning fossil fuels. Since gasoline and

diesel are both fossil fuels, then NOx is a major component of

automobile emissions. Several members of the trucking and fossil

fuel industries, as well as members of the twenty-two state

region, have challenged the regulations in Federal Court and have

been successful in blocking the implementation of the new rules.

In the past two months, two separate Federal Court Of Appeals

panels have ruled that the EPA’s authority to establish clean air

standards is not properly delegated by Congress under the Clean

Air Act. Therefore, since the EPA is a part of the Executive

branch of government and not the Legislative, they have no

authority to produce regulations on their own. The plaintiffs in

the case also argued that the amount of pollution a person can

tolerate has not been established and until it is the EPA should

not make the current regulations more restrictive.

How: The main actors in this event are the American

Trucking Associations and their fellow plaintiffs, the twenty-two

state coalition, the EPA, and the Federal Appeals Court.

Why would the American Trucking Associations and other

fossil fuel burning industries want to limit the EPA’s authority?

What do they have to gain? Last year, according to the EPA’s own

press release detailing their enforcement efforts in fiscal year

1998, the EPA referred 266 criminal cases to the Department of

Justice, as well as 411 civil court cases. Approximately half of

the civil cases required violators to change the way they manage

their facilities or to reduce their emissions or discharges. The

EPA also assessed almost $93 million dollars in criminal fines

and another $92 million in civil penalties. In addition to fines

and penalties, polluters spent over $2 billion dollars to correct

violations. Not included in this estimate would be the legal

expenses incurred or the advertising and marketing costs required

to mend a damaged pubic relations image. Clearly it is in the

industries’ best financial interest if the regulations are less

restrictive. Many companies that spent large amounts of money to

meet the 1990 Clean Air Act standards would have to spend even

more to meet the amended 1997 standards.

Do the states in the twenty-two state region have another

reason to argue against the standards? According to Sean

Cavanagh’s article in the April 4, 1999 edition of the

Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Atlanta lost $700 million in

federal roads money as a result of failing to come up with a

pollution containment plan. In addition, the state of Georgia

had to fund a state “superagency” to develop and enforce transit

plans that meet federal standards. The states joined the

industrial groups in claiming that the new standards are too

strict and are unnecessary. Chattanooga is not expected to meet

the new requirements by the year 2000 deadline and Chattanooga

Mayor Kensey and Tennessee Governor Sundquist were two of the

public officials who protested the new standards as being too


Are the new standards too strict? How does the EPA

determine the required levels? According to the press release

issued by the EPA following the court’s decision, the Federal

Courts are not questioning “the science and process conducted by

the EPA justifying the setting of new, more protective

standards.” The EPA claims that their standards, which are

designed to limit the affects that smog and soot have on people

with respiratory problems, protect 125 million Americans

including 35 million children. The Federal Courts only have

issue with the constitutionality of certain parts of the Clean

Air Act that allow the EPA to establish clean air regulations in

the interest of public health. The EPA is recommending that the

Department of Justice appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Several interest groups are closely watching the case. The

powerful industrial and truckers lobby groups are supporting the

plaintiffs, while several environmental lobby groups and health

associations, such as the American Lung Association, are

supporting the EPA’s efforts. All interest groups have

apparently been relatively quiet so far since the issue is a

court case and most are probably afraid of being accused of

trying to influence the courts decision. If the issue gets a new

life in Congress then obviously the lobbyist will be more active.

Opinion: Who gets what, when and how. The EPA is trying to

establish new clean air requirements to take effect in the year

2000 by using the public health clause of the Clean Air Act. The

plaintiffs are trying to avoid having to spend more money to meet

the requirements by 2000 by arguing that the public health clause

is unconstitutional.

What is the federal government’s stand on the issue. White

House press secretary Joe Lockhart claimed that they are “deeply

disappointed” by the courts decision. Considering that the

liberals are generally supportive of environmental issues this is

not surprising, but what about the conservatives? Republicans

are usually more protective of business interest. More strict

laws on environmental issues will cause fewer new companies to

start-up. This would of course have an adverse affect on the

economy. It should be noted that the two judges who voted on the

side of the plaintiffs in both of these case were Reagan

appointees and therefore probably conservatives.

Is it fair for the EPA to impose new strict standards only

seven years after instituting sweeping changes in clean air

regulations? Many companies are probably still paying for the

new programs they implented to help meet the previous standards.

Fair or not these standards are probably necessary. Ground level

ozone contributes significantly to smog. Smog, according to an

editorial by the Chattanooga Times’ Harry Austin on May 20,

1999,in turn affects not only our health, but also crop and

forest loss, acid rain and fog production, and increases regional

haze. If there are so many important benefits to reducing ground

level ozone then why is the public so silent on the matter?

Probably for two reasons. First, confusion with atmospheric

ozone. The ozone surrounding the Earth blocks out radiation from

the sun. Ground level ozone traps in fine particles. The hole

in the Earth’s ozone layer makes the evening news. Smog also

makes the evening news, but very little is ever said about the

contribution made to it by ground level ozone. Many Americans

probably just consider more ozone a good thing, but it’s not if

it’s not in the right place. Secondly, in an article written by

Jeff Dean for the Associated Press a survey was cited that stated

that Americans are discouraged by the Earth’s environmental

problems and are beginning to feel there is nothing that can be

done, therefore why even worry about it. The EPA is trying to do

something about our problems and is meeting with resistance from

industrial and transportation groups. If the Supreme Court does

not overturn the lower court’s ruling and reinstate the new

regulations then millions of Americans will continue to suffer

the effects of smog. If the court rules the regulations void

because they are not properly delegated by Congress then the

floodgates will open on lawsuits against numerous such

regulations. If an already unproductive Congress is forced to

create all of their own regulations then the country will come to

a stand still. If, however, these regulations are created at

random without proper Congressional supervision then a main

portion of our system of checks and balances will be voided. A

compromise must me attained.

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