Clearing the Air

New EPA clean-air standards have some small businesses fuming.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the November 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Small-business groups are lining up behind congressional attempts to delay implementation of the new ozone and particulate matter (PM) air standards the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed in July. If enacted, the standards would force many counties and cities to create clean-air programs, which would likely affect all types of Main Street and shopping-mall businesses nationwide.

Ringleaders of the effort to stall the standards say they're fighting "an uphill battle," says Allen Schaeffer, vice president of environmental affairs at the American Trucking Association. Bills to delay implementation for four years have been introduced in the House (H.R. 1984) by Reps. Ron Klink (D-PA) and Fred Upton (R-MI), and in the Senate (S.1084) by Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK). President Clinton would likely veto the bills, arguing the standards would cut down on respiratory illnesses and deaths. It is unlikely Congress could muster the votes to override a veto.

The new standards would require states to develop state implementation plans (SIPs) for reducing ozone and PM emissions in nonattainment areas. The new ozone standard is .08 parts per million (ppm), down from .12 ppm. But "exceedences" will be declared only if a nonattainment area's average reading for an eight-hour period is above .08 ppm rather than .12 ppm for any one-hour period. The current PM restriction is on particles under 10 microns, called PM 10, a reference to the size of the dust or water particles containing pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic compounds. The EPA has created a new standard for particles below 2.5 microns.

The number of nonattainment areas would multiply under the new standards. There are 106 ozone and 41 PM 10 nonattainment counties based on 1993-95 data. The EPA has now increased its estimate of the number of nonattainment areas to 546 ozone and 283 PM, according to Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA), chairman of the House Commerce Committee.

Jenny Noonan, an EPA policy analyst, says additional nonattainment counties will be designated in 2000; states would then have about three years to submit SIPs.

States are likely to use the same types of control strategies for both ozone and particulate matter : fuel or engine restrictions; time of day or route driving restrictions; and reduction of commercial development, to name a few.

Benjamin Cooper, senior vice president of the Printing Industries of America trade association and chairman of the Small Business Legislative Council, a lobbying group, believes some small-business groups will be fighting against one another as states begin to write SIPs. To achieve the lower levels, nonattainment areas will have to go after sources whose emissions they have typically ignored: those of small businesses. Counties will then have to decide, for example, whether to force local trucking companies to use reformulated fuel or require printers and copy shops to use low-emission inks and adhesives.

The EPA's July proposal contained some concessions not included in the original proposal. For example, the EPA would go easy on counties that take steps to reduce exposure to ozone, even if they didn't meet the new .08 ppm, eight-hour standard.

This may take some of the sting out of ozone control measures in some areas. But that prospect won't stop small-business groups from supporting the Klink and Breaux bills.

Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.

Contact Sources

American Trucking Association, 2200 Mill Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 838-1844

Environmental Protection Agency, (919) 541-5555, noonan.

Printing Industries of America, 100 Daingerfield Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 519-8115.


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