Rural Ozone Pollution: New Science, Old Rules
8 Appalachian Natural Res. L.J. 149 (2014)
41 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2013 Last revised: 13 Jun 2014
Date Written: August 13, 2013
The Clean Air Act, widely considered the most complex environmental legislation in the United Sates, has not undergone any significant change since 1990. This Essay argues that the Clean Air Act’s ability to protect human health is limited by a failure to improve the Act to reflect modern scientific understandings. Even discounting those original parts of the Act essentially unchanged from the 1970s, the science that informed passage of the Act is twenty-three years old. During the interim, scientific understanding of air quality and pollution changed drastically, yet the Act remains unchanged.
The 2007 discovery of highly-elevated wintertime ozone levels in a rural oil and gas field directly challenged what we “know” about ozone pollution. Before, science equated ozone pollution exclusively with high-temperature summer days in industrialized urban settings. The Clean Air Act, built around that science, still considers ozone exclusively from the urban point of view. However, EPA must now apply rules designed to fix smog problems in Los Angeles to rural areas which have nothing in common with urban settings.
This disparity affects EPA’s ability to protect human health. It also leads to regulatory inefficiency and industry uncertainty. This Essay calls for a fresh look at the old rules, using the recent discovery of rural ozone as a primary example.
Keywords: ozone, pollution, clean air act, regulatory reform, rural, oil, gas
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation