For nearly two decades, Connecticut and other Northeast states have faced an enormously difficult environmental mandate: reduce the levels of ground-level ozone to standards deemed acceptable by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The legislature and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have instituted dozens of laws and programs in an effort to reduce ground level ozone.

Unfortunately, over 80% of the pollutants in Connecticut’s air that produce ozone do not come from Connecticut sources. Vehicle emissions from millions of cars travelling daily between Washington D.C. and New York City, along with emissions from Midwestern power plants not required to institute the same costly pollution reduction requirements as Connecticut, contribute the vast majority of ozone and ozone-producing chemicals to our state.

While Connecticut’s air quality is the best it has been in the last 100 years—and there are only a handful of days each year when we exceed the standard (due principally to the causes stated above) —the EPA is about to issue a new proposed standard for ozone that will be even more stringent, require millions in additional investments from the business community, and place Connecticut at an even greater economic disadvantage with other states that do not suffer significantly from imported emissions.

Unfortunately, the EPA interprets its rulemaking authority for air quality standards as not allowing for consideration of the economic impacts of the proposed standard; only potential health effects can be considered. Some studies have concluded that no amount of ozone can be considered “safe” for breathing.

If that is the case and the standard must be solely based on safe levels for breathing with no consideration of economic impact, then perhaps the EPA is in violation of the Clean Air Act if they propose any level other than zero. EPA’s formal proposal for the new ozone standard was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 19. Written comments from the public must be submitted by March 22.

For more information, contact Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.