Ground Level Ozone Regulations Essay

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.

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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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