A Great Opportunity to Strengthen Air Quality Standards
Written Comments by Lone Star
Chapter Sierra Club
September 7, 2007
Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Mail Code 6102T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D. C. 20460
Enclosed are additional comments of the Houston Regional
Group and Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra (Sierra Club)
regarding the proposal to change the National Ambient
Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, Docket ID Number
EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172. We provided our first comments
to EPA staff at the September 5, 2007 public hearing
held in Houston, Texas.
The Sierra Club is responding to comments we heard
at the September 5, 2007 public hearing.
1) The Sierra Club heard industry speakers say that
the present ozone standard should not be changed because
state implementation plans are being implemented; are
working; ozone levels are falling; and that we should
wait until we meet the present ozone standard before
changing the standard.
The U.S. Congress decided in 1970 that the above method
of standard setting was not appropriate. Instead the
U.S. Congress decided that the criteria pollutant standard
setting process would be based on health/welfare affects
only, with an adequate margin of safety for health
effects. EPA was exactly correct to say that cost and
the other factors above do not play a role in the standard
In addition, it is important to note that the reason
that this ozone standard setting process is occurring
now is because EPA did not adhere to the every five
year timeframe for reassessment of the ozone standard
and had to be sued to force it to begin the process.
2) In its proposal EPA allows the public to speak
in favor of retaining the present ozone standard.
In the Sierra Club’s view, this is illegal.
Since both the Administrator and his scientific advisory
panel have stated that the ozone standard must be changed
due to the scientific evidence, how can EPA turn around
and suggest that the present standard may be retained.
The Sierra Club views this as irresponsible pandering
to industry and others who do not want the most health
protective ozone standard and is an action that threatens
public health/welfare. The Sierra Club urges EPA to
drop any suggestion that retaining the current ozone
standard is legal or realistic.
3) One industry speaker likened the way EPA was operating
the ozone standard setting process to an election.
The ozone standard setting process is not an election.
It is a serious, scientifically based effort to ensure
that public health is protected with an adequate margin
of safety. This is as it should be and the Sierra Club
supports EPA in ensuring that the ozone standard setting
process is maintained as scientifically based and protective
of human health/welfare.
4) Several industry speakers referred to high ozone
concentrations in rural areas as proof that the background
level of ozone made it impossible to meet the proposed
Not one of the industry speakers mentioned the process
of ozone and ozone precursor transport. We know from
studies, research, and monitoring that ozone and ozone
precursors can travel 100’s to 1,000’s
to miles. The Sierra Club does not doubt that EPA’s
statement that natural background is probably about
0.020 to 0.035 ppm of ozone is correct. What seems
obvious is that plumes of ozone and ozone precursors
are moving to rural areas and causing ozone exceedances
and damage to ecosystems and vegetation. EPA needs
to aggressively pursue reductions from sources of transport
generated ozone and ozone precursors to reduce ozone
concentrations in rural areas and natural areas so
that our wild lands and croplands are protected.
Industry also ignores the scientific studies conducted
in 2000 and 2006 in Texas which indicate that there
are massive amounts of un-inventoried volatile organic
compounds (VOCs) that come from the Houston Ship Channel
in particular and industry point sources specifically.
We are transporting much greater amounts of ozone precursors
to rural and wild areas than we think. We have not
made as much progress as we need to make because our
emissions inventories (for vehicles too where we seem
to find more emissions each time we examine them) are
highly inaccurate. We can meet the present and proposed
ozone standards if we get the emissions inventories
right and we are politically willing to achieve public
health/welfare protection goals.
5) Industry speakers spoke against the science which
they suggested did not show that ozone effects occur
at levels below the present ozone standard.
This drumbeat, that EPA supports faulty science, does
not measure up to any reasoned review. When EPA’s
own scientific advisory panel states that the ozone
standard should be set between 0.060 ppm and 0.070
ppm and that effects have occurred down to the lower
level of this range or below, there can be no convincing
argument that the science is not legitimate. Otherwise
we get back to the “dead bodies in the street” proof
that industry has advocated in the past to justify
reducing air pollution.
6) Industry speakers suggested that deadlines to meet
the present ozone standard were unrealistic.
As a citizen I can say that 37 years seems enough
time to meet the health based ozone standard. My personal
goal is to keep fighting for clean air in Houston so
that by the time I die (I am 55 now) I will be able
to breath air that meets the ozone standard. Unfortunately,
the Sierra Club fights powerful, wealthy, and elite
people who are more interested in their economic standing
than citizens’ health. This I resent tremendously
after 30 years of personal, citizen volunteer efforts
to get clean air in Houston, Texas. It is time for
the tables to turn and industry to do right by the
7) One industry speaker said that monitoring stations
measured ozone at heights that were not representative
of a person’s breathing height.
While the Sierra Club agrees that more measurements
at breathing height is desirable the speaker’s
assertion is not credible. Before I retired I spent
13 years in the City of Houston’s (COH) Technical
Services Section (the ambient monitoring section).
I helped operate and maintain the City’s air
monitoring network. Our air sampling intake points
were not 35 meters in the air, as the speaker stated,
but about 3 meters in height. While these sampling
intake points are not at breathing level height there
is no information I have seen which indicates that
ozone levels are significantly lower at five feet than
at three meters. This is a red herring issue and another
example of the exception being used to make a point.
EPA has siting criteria that are used to site ambient
air monitors. These criteria do not recommend siting
ozone air intake sampling points at high elevations.
Many of the ozone ambient monitors are located in monitoring
trailers (especially in Texas and Houston) with air
intake sampling points only a few meters tall.
8) Industry speakers mentioned that lifestyle changes
would be forced on citizens and that citizens are ignorant
of the proposed ozone standard change.
The Sierra Club does not doubt that some lifestyle
changes are beneficial and that citizens should adopt
these to reduce health effecting ozone concentrations.
The Sierra Club supports these changes and we support
more public education for citizens so they know what
they can do to be part of a positive solution to help
with ozone reduction. But it is curious that industry
brings up these charges not due to their concern for
citizens but to use it as a hammer to scare EPA and
others that our lives will be thrown back into the
dark ages. Where is the industry support for public
education and public participation in the process to
reduce ozone levels? The Sierra Club has not seen industry
spend a lot of money, in comparison to that spent fighting
against regulations, to assist the public in participating
to reduce ozone air pollution.
9) Industry speakers talked about the overwhelming
costs that a change to the ozone standard will cause.
As EPA rightly stated at the public hearing the ozone
standard legally cannot be predicated on costs but
must look solely at health/welfare effects using the
best scientific information that exists. The Sierra
Club supports EPA in this correct decision.
The Sierra Club points out that time after time after
time in the past industry has overstated the loss of
jobs, companies that would have to move, companies
that would go out of business, costs to consumers,
the prevention of expansion and growth, and the compliance
costs due to environmental regulations. These predictions
(some would say threats) did not come true. Industry
has a history of exaggerating costs to alter legitimate
political processes whose purposes are to make progress
in cleaning up the air. The automakers and catalytic
converters and the refining/petrochemical industry
and nitrogen oxide (NOx) reasonably available control
technology regulations are just two examples of this
history of exaggeration. Don’t believe industry!
10) Industry speakers say changing the ozone standard
will take focus away from making progress on achieving
the present ozone standard.
The Sierra Club finds this argument very odd. Industry
has fought every step of the way in implementing control
measures/strategies that would reduce ozone levels.
For instance, industry successfully sued the TCEQ to
stop controls that would have reduced NOx emissions
from large industrial sources by 90% and TCEQ substituted
less effective NOx controls of 80%. The focus has been
very clear for industry: delay, delay, delay.
11) Industry speakers referred to the problem of EPA
preemption of control of on/off-road mobile sources
as slowing down reduction of ozone.
The Sierra Club agrees that EPA needs to quicken its
national regulations to reduce emissions from on/off-road
mobile sources. After all, EPA has just been sued a
second time over its lack of action to reduce ocean
going ship emissions which were supposed to be promulgated
in 2003 but which four years later have not seen the
light of day. But what this complaint ignores is that
the State of Texas, both the Texas Legislature and
TCEQ, have consistently refused to adopt California
emission standards for mobile sources as they have
a legal right to do.
12) TCEQ speaker stated “Texas is using every
opportunity to address the current ozone problem and
still faces insurmountable challenges”.
This is a dishonest statement. TCEQ and the Texas
Legislature did not adopt California emission standards
and the 8-hour ozone SIP submitted recently to EPA
contains almost no new additional control measures/strategies.
The State of Texas gave up and did not seriously produce
an SIP that would get as many emission reductions and
get as close to the ozone standard as possible. In
other words there is no room to complain when you do
not even compete. EPA should not reward Texas with
additional compliance time when Texas does not make
a serious and credible effort to reduce emissions.
13) EPA staff asked the Sierra Club what ozone standard
should be adopted for a peak one-hour standard.
The Sierra Club supports retention of the one-hour
ozone standard of 0.12 ppm. This standard should be
changed so that it goes to three decimal places (thousandths)
because technologically this is possible; so EPA does
not really have a standard of 0.0124 ppm; and because
a one-hour peak ozone standard adds more protective
for public health/welfare.
In the end the Sierra Club is concerned that after
37 years the ozone standard has not been attained.
It is of great concern that EPA states in the Federal
Register notice for this ozone standard setting proposal
that there is a possibility that ozone has no threshold
where human health/welfare is not harmed. All the more
reason for EPA to set a stringent ozone standard and
reduce ozone levels as quick and as much as possible
since each person breaths an average of 20,000 quarts
of air each day.
The Sierra Club appreciates this opportunity to comment.
Air Quality Issue Chair
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
Chair, Air Quality Committee
Houston Regional Group of the Sierra Club
Houston, Texas 77096