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Presidential Memo on Implementation of Air Quality Standards Showcases EPA Progress on Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation

Administrator Pruitt takes final action: no change to standards for nitrogen dioxide

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WASHINGTON  – Today, President Donald Trump signed a Memorandum for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), directing EPA to ensure efficient and cost-effective implementation of air quality standards under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and regional haze programs of the Clean Air Act.

“This memorandum helps ensure that EPA carries out its core mission, while reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “International and background sources of air pollution are critical issues facing state, local, and tribal agencies implementing national standards. The President’s leadership will guide our Agency’s continued commitment to proper implementation of the Clean Air Act.”

The memo, Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation -- Policies and Procedures Relating to Implementation of Air Quality Standards, calls for setting air quality standards based on transparent science.

On April 6, Administrator Scott Pruitt took final action to retain, without revisions, the current health-based standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOx). This decision, informed by the recommendation of the Agency’s independent science advisors and consistent with comments from states and key stakeholders, keeps the one-hour standard at a level of 100 parts per billion and an annual standard of 53 parts per billion.  These standards focus on nitrogen dioxide to address NOx. EPA also intends to finalize guidance recommending “significant impact levels” for ozone and fine particulate matter soon.  This guidance will further reduce permitting burdens for U.S. manufacturers.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set NAAQS for “criteria pollutants,” which include NOx, ground-level ozone, particulate matter – and other pollutants.  NOx emissions have dropped by more than 50 percent since 2000 and currently there are no monitors in the U.S. measuring pollution above those standards.

EPA has already made tremendous progress toward President Trump’s direction for regulatory relief:

  • The Obama Administration imposed more than 50 Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) on states, about 10 times the number of FIPs by the three previous administrations combined. Under Administrator Pruitt, EPA has turned an average of one FIP into a State Implementation Plan (SIP) every month.
  • Administrator Pruitt inherited a backlog of more than 700 SIPs. Since March 2017, EPA has taken final action on more than 350 SIPs.
  • EPA, in close collaboration with states, plans to increase the number of areas that meet NAAQS by approximately 20 percent.
  • The Agency is taking action to simplify the New Source Review process and has committed to reduce, by 50 percent, the number of permitting-related decisions that exceed six months by October 2019.
  • While tremendous progress has been made in reducing criteria pollutants and regional haze, background and international air pollution contributes significantly to air quality issues under increasingly stringent standards. EPA is committed to maximize flexibility for the Clean Air Act tools for regulatory relief, including through the exclusion of data from “exceptional events” and provisions to address violations caused by international – including non-North American – sources. Since 2016, EPA has received and acted upon more than 20 “exceptional event” demonstrations, nearly all of which concurred with state recommendations.
  • In January 2018, EPA announced decisions to revisit onerous and duplicative parts of the Obama’s Administration’s Regional Haze Rule and to finalize additional flexibilities for state plans due in 2021.

“The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has been a leader in exceptional event demonstrations and we appreciate the Administration’s commitment to timely review of the same. And, we wholeheartedly support the continuing study of background and international transport of air pollutants,” said Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Misael Cabrera.

“This new directive to streamline the approval process for state air quality plans is welcome news,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Dan Meyer. “EPA’s efforts to work cooperatively with states on Clean Air Act issues in a timely manner will encourage economic growth while protecting the environment.”

“Having reduced air pollution from local sources in our region by more than 85 percent, we are grateful for EPA’s initiative to streamline implementation and provide for better accounting of international pollution transport as we continue our efforts to further reduce air pollution and improve public health for San Joaquin Valley residents,” said Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in California Seyed Sadredin.

“The current Clean Air Act regulatory review process is confusing, results in conflicting standards, and does not provide local officials with the predictability they need to develop long-term transportation plans aimed at reducing emissions. ARTBA endorses the Trump Administration’s plan to reform the process to speed up the delivery of transportation improvement projects while also maintaining environmental protections,” said American Road & Transportation Builders Association President & CEO Peter Ruane.