President Obama Tightens Regulations for Ozone Pollution

On October 1st, 2015 the Obama administration tightened its regulations for smog-causing ozone pollution despite furious opposition by industry groups, though the move will bitterly disappoint many environmental groups that sought even stricter limits.

The new standard for ozone (03) and related photochemical oxidants and national ambient air quality standards is 70 parts per billion, down from a limit of 75 parts per billion set under the George W. Bush administration.  Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. EPA reevaluates ozone standards every five years but there is no mandate to modify the standard.  This move comes four years after the White House crushed the hopes of environmentalists and public health groups by postponing any action on ozone until after President Barack Obama’s reelection. Whereas industry opponents have continually portrayed lowering the ozone standard as a threat to job creation, stagnate the economy, and drive investments overseas.

Table ES-6 from the EPA report, “Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Proposed Revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ground-Level Ozone” shows the 70 ppb standard  might prove to be an appropriate middle-ground comprise of health benefits for citizens and of costs to industries impacted in the U.S  at different proposed standard levels.


Time will tell if the new ruling will face any opposition from Congress regarding implementation. Even if the Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is able to evoke the Congressional Review Act, that allows a simple majority to reject major regulations he and others in Congress might not have the votes necessary to roll it back. Even if successful the effort will likely need enough votes to override a veto from President Obama.

The table below, “Comparison of Growth Areas and Emissions, 1980 – 2014”, shows that between 1980 and 2011, aggregate emissions of common air pollutants dropped 68 percent, while the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew 212 percent[1].  Total private sector jobs increased by 88 percent during the same period[2].  If history is any indication of what impact the new standard will have, the EPA has over forty years of precedence cutting air pollution, while not inhibiting U.S. economic growth.

Comparison of Growth Areas and Emissions

Read more:

Source: U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2014a. Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) of the Proposed Revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ground-Level Ozone.


[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National) for years 1970 – 2011.  Note;  The 88 percent figure reflects seasonally adjusted employment figures.  Series Identification: CES0500000001.

[2] Table, “Comparison of Growth Areas and Emissions, 1980 – 2014”.

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