American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Update and Hearing Summary on Clean Air Act Ozone and PM Regulations (6-12-98)

Most Recent Action
Efforts to dismantle new ozone and particulate matter standards have resulted in a compromise between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Senate opponents of the standards as part of the $217 billion reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) passed by Congress on May 22nd and signed into law by President Clinton on June 9th.

Past Congressional Action
The Senate version of ISTEA, passed on March 12th by a 96-4 vote, included an amendment allowing the particulate matter standard to be statutorily set and preventing EPA from accelerating implementation in the future. EPA would then have five years to gather additional information on the health effects of particulate matter. From that time, noncompliance areas would have three years to develop a plan on how they will reach attainment. However, areas that did not reach attainment within EPA's designated time line cannot be penalized before that time is complete. In addition, the amendment called on EPA to absorb the full cost for states to implement new monitoring systems.

In the subsequent House-Senate conference, House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-VA.) and ranking Democrat John Dingell (MI) proposed a revised amendment that allows the ozone and particulate matter implementation time lime to coincide with the implementation program of EPA's proposed rule for ncreasing visibility in national parks and in wilderness areas. The conference amendment also would have changed the deadline for establishing monitoring systems for the particulate matter standard from December 1999 (Inhofe-EPA compromise) to December 2000. This extension was intended to give EPA more time to consider the recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The final bill passed by Congress kept the deadline at December 1999, while still encouraging EPA to review the NAS comments.

As a result of the ISTEA compromise, action on stand-alone legislation in the House, H.R. 1984 introduced by Rep. Ron Klink last June, has stalled. This bill would impose a four-year moratorium on the ozone and particulate matter standards to allow time to further implement the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and to review and monitor air quality under the Act.

The National Research Council has released a report advising EPA to redirect research to "maintain an integrated study program ensuring that the most serious public health risks posed by the particles are addressed." The report, Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter: Immediate Priorities and a Long-Range Research Portfolio, suggests that EPA should reallocate funds from monitoring systems to studying the health effects of particulate matter. A press release summarizing the findings of the report along with a link to the report is available on the NRC website. 

Previous Congressional Debate
Congressional committees have held a series of hearings on the effects of new ozone and particulate matter rule. House Speaker Newt Gingrich publicly declared his opposition to the new standards, saying that Congress needs to "totally rewrite the portions of the Clean Air Act that are being misadministered by the EPA." Other congressional opponents are gathering support to attempt to overturn the new rule this fall. On July 29, 1997, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S. 1084, which was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill is similar to H.R. 1984 , which was introduced by Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA) in June 1997. S. 1084 would set up a research and monitoring program for ozone and particulate matter and would reinstate the original standards that were in effect before the new final rule was promulgated.

Both the House and Senate voted to double the EPA's request for funds for particulate matter research when they passed H.R. 2158, the FY 1998 EPA appropriations bill. The bill allocates a total of $36.5 million to EPA for ongoing particulate matter research. The effort to fund the research was led by House Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ken Calvert (R-CA), who worked with EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) to include the funding in the appropriations bill.

On July 16, 1997, the EPA's particulate matter and ozone standards rule was officially made final. President Clinton has directed EPA Administrator Carol Browner to ensure that the standards are "implemented in the most flexible, reasonable, and least burdensome manner, and that the Federal Government work with State and local governments and other interested parties to this end." For more information on the rule and clean air studies, visit EPA's AIRLinks.

Despite the President's and Browner's emphasis on flexibility, the EPA has faced increasing opposition to the proposed ozone and particulate matter standards since they were proposed. Committee and subcommittee members in both the Senate and House have expressed concerns about the implementation costs for the proposed rule and the scientific studies and policy decisions on which the rules are based. Critics of the standards allege that the EPA's research is inconclusive and that the agency violated federal law when proposing the rule. By court order, the air-quality standards had to be issued in their final form by July 19, 1997. Opponents to the standards are now discussing legislative options to halt implementation of the rule. The leading opponents are Representatives Ron Klink (D-PA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Thomas Bliley (R-VA), John Dingell (D-MI), and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). According to Senator Inhofe, "EPA's claims about both the costs and benefits of these new rules have been found wanting at every turn. It is time for Congress to assume accountability on this important issue." The rule's supporters include Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY).

In July, EPA released a list of counties that are not expected to be in compliance with the final rule. EPA expects that 280 counties will not meet the ozone standard and 150 will not meet the particulate matter standard. Presently, 106 and 41 counties are out of compliance with the current ozone and particulate matter standards, respectively. Rep. Bliley is doubtful of these figures, saying that other organizations have determined that more than 600 counties will be in violation of the standards.

On June 25, 1997, the EPA received a long-awaited endorsement of their ozone and particulate matter standards from the White House. President Clinton announced the decision at a conference on families in Nashville, Tennessee, emphasizing the importance of children's health as it relates to air quality. In an address to the United Nations Special Session on Environment and Development, the President said that the new standards will help to reduce hospitalization due to childhood asthma and prevent up to 15,000 premature deaths each year.

President Clinton responded to critics of the standards by underscoring the flexibility of the implementation schedule. The rule allots five years to develop a national network of particulate monitoring stations and then another three years for states to develop implementation plans. Finally, after several more years the standards would actually be enforced.

Rep. Ron Klink introduced H.R. 1984 on June 19, 1997. This bill would impose a four-year moratorium on the EPA's proposed ozone and particulate matter standards. The moratorium would provide time to further implement the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and to review and monitor air quality under the Act. The bill states that changing the current ozone standard could nullify some of the terms for ozone that are in the Clean Air Act Amendments. In addition, both the EPA and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council (CASAC) have recommended additional research into the biological mechanism for adverse health effects from fine particles, the toxicity and dose response levels and the size and type of particles causing adverse health effects. H.R. 1984 has over 100 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on Health and Environment.

Although Rep. Klink would like to see H.R. 1984 pass, he and other opponents to the rule are seeking out other legislative options to halt implementation. One of these is the new Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), which gives Congress 60 legislative days to offer a resolution of disapproval. Another option that opponents are considering is a rider on an appropriations bill, although House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley is opposed to that action.

On June 11, 1997, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) introduced H.R. 1863, the Job Protection Act of 1997. The bill now has over 40 cosponsors. Currently, the Clean Air Act includes dates by which areas with the highest concentrations of ozone and particulate matter must be in attainment under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). H.R. 1863 would prevent EPA from promulgating a new rule for ozone and particulate matter until after these dates have passed. For particulate matter, that final date is December 31, 2001, and for ozone it is November 15, 2010. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce and its Subcommittee on Health and Environment.

The EPA has continued to emphasize that, under the Clean Air Act, they are not to consider costs at the stage when standards are set. Costs and feasibility are considered when states devise plans to implement the standards. In addition, the EPA has reiterated that the standards are based on a thorough review and analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature. The EPA's economic analysis estimates the total cost of compliance with the new standards at $9.7 billion annually, $8.6 billion for particulate matter and $1.1 billion for ozone. However, other estimates by private organizations eclipse the EPA's numbers. 

Last November, the EPA proposed new air quality standards for both ground-level ozone and particulate matter. Ozone, or smog, is caused by the reaction of hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides with the presence of heat and sunlight. Scientific studies have determined that ozone causes respiratory illness and reduces lung capacity. Particulate matter is a general term for tiny air particles, such as dust and soot generated from power plants and incinerators. Particulates also interfere with breathing and aggregate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

The proposed ozone rule would permit 0.08 parts per million measured over 8 hours. Four exceedances would be allowed before an area is determined to be out of compliance. This standard is more stringent than the current regulation of 0.12 parts per million measured over one hour, with three allowable exceedances. The present particulate matter standard for PM10 (particulate matter sized 10 microns) will not change. The new standard establishes a limit for PM2.5: 15 micrograms per cubic meter annually with a 24-hour limit of 65 micrograms per cubic meter.

Critics have argued that the proposed standards will not have a dramatic effect on human health and bring exorbitant cost. For example, they cite figures that indicate that the new standards would only result in a 0.5% decrease in asthmatic hospital admittance in New York City. These minimal benefits will be outweighed by the costs from areas that must adopt new technology to meet the new criteria. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the new rules will triple the number of counties out of compliance, which must then adopt measures to reduce the pollutants.

Alternatively, the EPA argues that the standards are necessary for health reasons, citing studies that link early death rates with levels of pollution. The Natural Resources Defense Council puts the death-toll of people dying several years early from breathing polluted air at 64,000 per year. Regarding costs, a new EPA study illustrates that for every dollar we have spent on pollution controls since 1970, we have gained $45 in health and environmental benefits.

EPA is also emphasizing the flexibility and time frame of the implementation schedule for the standards. Areas that are not in attainment under the current ozone standard will be designated as "transitional" rather than nonattainment areas and will be given until 2004 to comply with the new standard. The attainment designation process for particulate matter will not begin until a full scientific review of particulate matter's human health effects is completed. EPA has allowed five years for this review.

The extended comment period for the proposed standards on ozone and particulate matter ended March 12, 1997. The National Conference of State Legislatures has issued a resolution asking Congress to block implementation of the rule, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety, is considering the request. Additionally, several key Democrats, such as Robert Byrd (WV), John Glenn (OH), Charles Robb (VA), and Wendell Ford (KY), have joined Republicans in their opposition to the rule. The Air Quality Standards Coalition said it was "very likely" they would sue the EPA if the standards are passed as they feel "scientific evidence about the overall health effects of ozone and particulate matter is generally inconclusive."

To read the full text of the proposed ozone rule, visit the EPA subset of the Federal Register.

To read the full text of the proposed particulate matter rule, visit the EPA subset of the Federal Register.

House Science Committee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Ranking Minority Member Tim Roemer (D-IN) have issued a report containing hearing summaries, findings and recommendations on the science behind the EPA's proposed standards. To read that report, visit the committee's website.

To obtain more background information on ozone and particulate matter, visit the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment site, which has on-line reports from the Congressional Research Service on this and other environmental issues. The site includes the reports "Air Quality: EPA's Proposed New Ozone and Particulate Matter Standards" and "Clean Air Act Issues". CRS reports are also available by calling your local representative or senator. 

Congressional Hearings

Hearing of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety.
February 5, 1997

This hearing on proposed ozone and particulate matter standards was the first of several on the topic. The predominant question debated was whether scientists know enough about the effects of air pollution to justify the tougher proposed rules. No consensus was reached by the panelists, scientists from industry and academia, who disagreed and debated the accuracy of study results. The only topic that met any agreement was that more time is necessary to accurately determine the effect of ozone and particulate matter on health. Witnesses included : Joel Schwartz, Harvard University, Anne Smith, economist, George Wolff, General Motors, Morton Lippmann, New York University, and George Thurston, New York University.

To read the full testimony of the witnesses submitted to the committee, visit the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee website.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing
February 12, 1997

Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety field hearing in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
March 3, 1997

Hearing of the House Committee on Science
March 12, 1997

This hearing focused on testimony from scientists from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), a seven-member group appointed by the EPA Administrator. Their testimony was very similar to testimony presented at the earlier Senate Hearing. Both the immediate past CASAC committee chair, Dr. George Wolff, and current chair, Dr. Joe Mauderly, oppose the rule on "inconclusive evidence". Morton Lippman, past president of CASAC, believes the regulations reflect "prudent judgment" and are in the public's best interest. Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) commented on the hearings in a press conference. "We heard from some very distinguished scientists, representing a broad range of disciplines, and who clearly disagree on this issue. I am afraid that if we move ahead with these new standards without a firm scientific consensus as to their effectiveness, then we will jeopardize widespread support in Congress and the nation for the Clean Air Act."

To read the full testimony of the witnesses submitted to the committee, visit the House Science Committee website.

Joint hearing by the House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee.
April 10, 1997

House National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee hearing
April 16, 1997

Joint hearing by the House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
April 17, 1997

House Agriculture Committee hearing
April 21, 1997

House Government Reform Committee hearing
April 23, 1997

House Commerce Committee hearing
April 24, 1997

Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety hearing
April 24, 1997

Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety
April 29, 1997

Joint hearing by the House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
May 1, 1997

Hearing of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee
May 7, 1997

This hearing on "The Science Behind EPA's Proposed Particulate Matter/Ozone Standards" focused on testimony by constituents of several of the subcommittee members. Dr. Joseph Norbeck, the Director of Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California Riverside and Ms. Lynn Terry, Assistant Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board hail from Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert and full Committee Ranking Member George Brown's home state of California, and The Honorable Carl Krentz, Mayor of La Porte Indiana and Mark Maassel, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for NIPSCO Industries both are from Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Roemer's Indiana district. All agreed that more research should be conducted before implementing a final rule.

To read the full testimony of the witnesses submitted to the committee, visit the House Science Committee website.

Joint hearing by the House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
May 15, 1997

Hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
May 21, 1997

"The Science behind EPA's Proposed Particulate Matter/Ozone Standards, Part 3," consisted of testimony by Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator, and questioning by subcommittee members. Her testimony focused on the studies and scientific analysis that the EPA and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) have looked at while considering the changes in the ozone and particulate matter standards. Ms. Browner emphasized that the 0.08 ppm ozone standard and the 2.5 micron particulate standard have been set by CASAC based on sound, peer-reviewed science. Subcommittee members focused much of their questioning on the scientific methodology and conclusions on which the proposed standards are based. Concerns about implementation costs were also raised by members of the subcommittee.

To read Carol Browner's full testimony, visit the House Science Committee website.

Hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee
July 22, 1997

In their hearing to determine the effects of the new ozone and particulate matter standards on agriculture, the Senate Agriculture Committee questioned Carol Browner on the costs, benefits, and implementation of the new rule. Ms. Browner testified that the new standards are expected to prevent $500 million in damage to crops like soybeans, wheat, cotton and peanuts. She addressed concerns that dust from farming operations would deem those sites out of compliance with the particulate matter standards. According to Ms. Browner, the EPA found that farming operations, even in the heaviest agricultural areas, are not the biggest sources of PM2.5 matter. Instead, "sulfates from power plants, soot emissions from inefficient combustion in boilers, mobile sources, and woodburning" represent the bulk of emissions. Ms. Browner said that the EPA is issuing guidance to the states to ensure that "they focus their control strategies on fine, rather than coarse particles" and do not concentrate on "farm tilling activities." Finally, she said that the standards "will not require any farmer to change the way they do their job." Chairman Dick Lugar (R-IN) raised concerns that farms located near urban areas, such as Indianapolis, might be deemed out of compliance because of emissions from the nearby city. Ms. Browner emphasized again that soil particulate matter is not the major concern, rather it is soot from industrial and mobile sources. Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) questioned Ms. Browner on the accuracy and usefulness of the monitors that EPA is using to determine air quality in various locations. Ms. Browner replied that the standards are based on overall averages and not spot-specific levels and the monitors are sufficient for that purpose.

Also testifying at the hearing were Adam Sharp, Assistant Director of Governmental Relations in the American Farm Bureau Federation; Robert Junk, President of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union; and Dr. Phillip Wakelyn, Manager of Environmental Health and Safety at the National Cotton Council of America and Member of the Agricultural Air Quality Task Force in the US Department of Agriculture. Mr. Sharp testified that a more accurate measurement method for PM2.5 needs to be developed and that more research needs to be done to determine the major sources of PM2.5. He said that the EPA's "present approach will only serve to put American agriculture at a competitive disadvantage with other countries and put agricultural producers out of work." Mr. Junk testified that US farming conservation programs are making great progress in protecting soil and water resources and that money would be better spent in these programs than on the new Clean Air Act rule. Dr. Wakelyn raised concerns that the EPA's monitoring equipment does not measure particulate matter accurately and, as a result, may cause some farming areas to be out of compliance with the new standard.

To read Chairman Lugar's opening statement and testimony from each of the witnesses, visit the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry website

Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety hearing
July 24, 1997

Ms. Mary Nichols, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, testified before the Subcommittee on the implementation plans for the EPA's final rule on ozone and particulate matter. She emphasized that the implementation of the rule will be flexible and cost effective. Ms. Nichols also discussed the role of the Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG) is developing the implementation scheme for the rule. OTAG was formed to assess ozone transport and recommend strategies to reduce interstate pollution. Subcommittee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Tim Hutchison (R-AR), and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) harshly criticized the EPA rule, saying that the EPA has not reassured farmers in their states that they will not be targeted during implementation of the rule. Ms. Nichols emphasized Ms. Browner's position from the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing two days earlier: Farms do not produce a large amount of the troublesome particulate matter and thus they will not be targeted as violators of the particulate matter standard. According to Sen. Sessions, energy costs will increase as a result of the rule. He accused the EPA of disguising the costs of the rule this way so that people would not directly feel the effects of the rule. Finally, Sen. Inhofe said that the EPA has been "blatantly dishonest" with the American people in telling them that the rule won't affect them individually.

To read Mary Nichols' statement and the opening statements of the Subcommittee members, visit the Environment and Public Works Committee website

House Agriculture Committee Hearing
September 16, 1997

Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA), author of H.R. 1984, and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) began the hearing by calling it a "hearing to gather the facts." Dingell called the "consequences" of the new standards "much clearer than the science." His biggest concern was the increased threat of citizen suits filed against states if compliance is not met. Rep. Ron Klink testified that EPA should "do the science first, " before implementing the new standards. He went on to say that EPA should fully enforce the PM10 standard before implementing the more stringent PM2.5.

Carol Browner testified that the "best available science" was used in the review that began with 3,000 published studies. She went on to say, that the new standards were not a way of going after America's farmers, but rather the large industrial sources of particulate emissions. Chairman Smith called Browner's assurances a "judgment call," saying she could not speak for the governors. (It is up to the states to decided how to implement the new standards and where the emission reductions will occur.) Browner responded by saying that she had yet to meet a governor who would target his/her state's farmers. EPA has issued a implementation plan and will provided guidance to states on the best means of implementing the standards. Browner added that citizen suits should not be a concern since by law, the only way a citizen can file a suit is if a state does not write an implementation plan. The key word being "write", according to Browner. A state simply has to write a plan to avoid citizen lawsuits. Browner addressed high cost concerns saying that the cost-benefit analysis done by EPA (which is not required under the Clean Air Act) showed that benefits far exceeded costs. Other concerns were raised about the discrepancies in the figures presented by EPA. ($8.6 billion and $46 billion for implementation.) Browner said that a description of projected costs was first available last fall and that the $8.6 billion is for partial attainment and $46 billion for full attainment.

Several of the committee members were concerned about natural events such as, fires, volcanic eruptions, and wind blown dust. According to Browner, a community will not be deemed "non-attainment" due to such events. When such events occur, they will be removed from the record and will not be part of an analysis to determine attainment or non-attainment. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) questioned Browner about the possibility of certain cities getting exemptions and wanted assurances that all cities would be treated the same under the new standards. Browner testified that it was Congress that made the decision when the Clean Air Act was revised to give some areas more time and not treat all areas equal. The implementation plan does have a "transitional" designation that can be used by any city that meets the requirements.

Sources: Environmental and Energy Study Institute; Investor's Business Daily; Washington Post; Natural Resources Defense Council; Tamara Nameroff, 1996-1997 GSA Congressional Science Fellow, in GSA Today; U.S. Chamber of Commerce Federation

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs; and Stephanie Barrett, Catherine Runden, and Shannon Clark, AGI Government Affairs Interns

Last updated June 12, 1998

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