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Feb 16 2016

Environmental Experts, Leading Agency Officials Discuss Clean Air Act Impacts

Local officials and regulatory experts discuss community, business
and economic impacts of environmental laws included in the Clean Air Act

HOUSTON (Feb. 16, 2016) – Twenty expert speakers addressed the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA), a new 70 parts per billion (ppb) ozone standard, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission controls during the 19th Annual Hot Air Topics (HAT) conference of the Air & Waste Management Association – Gulf Coast Chapter (AWMA-GCC). Regulatory, industry, legal, and environmental professionals who met February 11 in Houston also discussed federal regulatory planning, air permitting lead times, and clean air regulation costs versus benefits.

The conference featured a keynote presentation by David Schoenbrod, Professor at New York Law School. Professor Schoenbrod, a pioneer in environmental law, is a Visiting Scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and former Senior Staff Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He called for bold changes to the CAA. “Congress needs to find a bold new way, such as market-based control of pollution to replace the bureaucracy and red tape of a top down dictate, the Clean Air Act,” said Schoenbrod.

A CAA Policy Issues panel was held earlier in the afternoon, highlighted by the Honorable Jerry Mouton, Mayor of the City of Deer Park and the Honorable Stephen DonCarlos, Mayor of the City of Baytown, alongside Ron Curry, EPA Region 6 Regional Administrator, and Toby Baker, Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The panel addressed policy challenges with the federal Clean Air Act and EPA’s recent reduction in National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQs) ozone standard of 70 ppb.

The mayors, representing the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, shared potential negative impacts of EPA’s new ozone standard on their respective communities.

“I live one mile from a major petrochemical facility, so clean air is very important to me along with jobs for my city,” said Mouton. “We can have both clean air and jobs. Using new technology, industry is improving air quality while expanding plants and creating new jobs.

“With more than 50 monitors, the Houston-area has the most extensive air monitoring network in the U.S. These monitors show that our air has never been cleaner; EPA’s new ozone standard is simply unnecessary,” stated Mouton.

“While the new regulations were established despite our opposing input, the need for local leadership is paramount as the regulations are implemented,” Mouton added.

The mayors provided suggestions for better coordination to implement policies that allow/recognize background and mobile source contributions to ozone, while not penalizing local governments and communities with a restricted economy and potential transportation funding sanctions. Currently, ozone forming pollutants which originate from sources beyond local communities’ control, such as pollution from mobile sources, pollution from foreign countries, wild-fires and general background sources like trees, count toward local communities’ attainment status. Non-attainment with CAA regulations can result in a loss of federal transportation funding and a lack of approval for new manufacturing facilities.

“Seventy-two percent of air emissions are from mobile sources,” noted DonCarlos. “With the current growth-rate in the Houston-area, mobile sources will continue to be a major problem. My suggestion would be to concentrate on incentivizing mass transit in non-attainment areas like Houston.”

DonCarlos added, “EPA data shows our air is cleaner today than it has been in 30 years. That is due in large part to control measures already implemented by industry. The new EPA ozone standard will require, in most air sheds, ozone-causing emissions to be reduced by more than 70 percent at a time when we have just started to reverse a decades-long manufacturing exodus overseas.”

Economic Alliance member and renowned air quality expert, Jed Anderson, was one of the speakers addressing CAA reform. Anderson, principal attorney with The AL Law Group, discussed current air issues and Clean Air Act reform and modernization.

“I have been championing Clean Air Act reform for more than a decade,” said Anderson. “With a growing need for reasonable, efficient and effective regulation, it is inevitable that the U.S. Congress will simplify and transform the Clean Air Act.”
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