EPA Initiates New Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards

August 28, 2023
The EPA announced a new review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to ensure the standards reflect the most current, relevant science and protect people’s health from these harmful pollutants. EPA Administrator Michael Regan reached this decision after carefully considering advice provided by the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). In October 2021, EPA announced a reconsideration of the previous Administration’s decision to retain the NAAQS for ozone. EPA is incorporating the ongoing reconsideration into the review announced today and will consider the advice and recommendations of the CASAC in that review. The Agency will move swiftly to execute this new review of the underlying science and the standards – prioritizing transparency, scientific integrity, inclusive public engagement, and environmental justice.
“After carefully reviewing the advice of the independent scientific panel, I am convinced that a full and complete review of the ozone NAAQS is warranted to ensure a thorough and transparent assessment of the latest science,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.  “From the start, I committed that EPA will uphold the integrity of independent, robust processes to ensure that air quality standards reflect the latest science in order to best protect people from pollution. As we initiate a new review, EPA will continue to work closely with our partners at the state, tribal and local levels to fully implement the existing standards, consistent with our Clean Air Act obligations.”
Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause respiratory issues, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and may lead to missed days of work or school, emergency room visits, and premature deaths. These costly public health impacts can be especially harmful to children and older adults, disproportionately affecting people of color, families with low-incomes, and other vulnerable populations.
Nationally, due in part to strong EPA emission standards that reduce air pollution, ozone air quality is improving. Between 2010 and 2022, national average ozone air quality concentrations have dropped 7 percent. In many of the areas designated as not meeting the current 2015 standards, work remains. To continue progress in reducing ozone, EPA has initiated important regulatory actions including strong new federal emissions standards for cars and trucks and strengthening rules to reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry – a leading source of ozone forming volatile organic compounds.  Taken together, the projected benefits of these and other actions addressing industrial and power sector emissions, such as with the Good Neighbor Plan, would cut emissions of ozone precursors by hundreds of thousands of tons with estimated health benefits adding up to billions of dollars.
The new review will allow EPA to consider fully the information about the latest ozone science and potential implications for the ozone NAAQS provided by the CASAC and the Ozone Review Panel. EPA will conduct the review according to well-established best practices and processes that embrace scientific integrity and the role of the public to provide input at multiple steps along the way.
Concrete, transparent and public next steps include:
  • Issuing a call for information in the Federal Register in the next few days;
  • convening a public science and policy workshop in spring 2024 to gather input from the scientific community and the public;
  • in summer 2024, EPA will summarize the proceedings of the workshop to consider how the information gathered can be used to inform the next review, including specific areas of science that warrant particular focus and analytic enhancements;
  • in fall 2024 the agency plans to release its Integrated Review Plan, Volume 2 to guide CASAC consideration and development of the Integrated Science Assessment.
EPA established the current standards at a level of 70 parts per billion in 2015 and retained them in 2020, after concluding that there was little new information to suggest the need for revision. The CASAC, however, has identified studies published more recently and also recommended that EPA conduct additional risk analyses that might support more stringent standards. EPA has determined that incorporating the ongoing reconsideration into a new review will best ensure full consideration of this new information and advice.
EPA Fines Suncor for Chemical Accident Prevention and Reporting Violations
The EPA recently announced a $300,030 settlement with the Suncor Energy USA Inc., Commerce City Refinery (Suncor) to resolve alleged violations of toxic chemical-related regulations.
The settlement addresses chemical accident prevention, toxic chemical release reporting and community right-to-know violations at the refinery, which EPA discovered during an inspection conducted from September 14-17, 2020. Suncor will pay $60,000 in civil penalties. It will also spend at least $240,030 on emergency response equipment as a Supplemental Environmental Project to enhance the chemical release accident response capabilities of the South Adams County Fire Department in Commerce City, Colorado.
"Facilities must properly handle hazardous substances to prevent dangerous chemical accidents and follow reporting requirements when releases occur,” said KC Becker, EPA Regional Administrator. “If they don’t, EPA will hold them accountable. We are pleased that Suncor is implementing critical safety measures to protect workers and the community."
The inspection focused on the root causes related to the catalyst release that occurred on December 11, 2019, among other areas. The EPA found that Suncor violated the following regulations:
  • The Risk Management Program under the Clean Air Act, which is aimed at preventing accidental releases of chemicals that can have serious consequences for public health, safety, and the environment; Specifically, Suncor failed to maintain correct process safety information, complete outstanding process hazard analyses, update operating procedures and follow management of change procedures.
  • Toxic chemical release reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which are designed to notify the community of toxic releases from facilities to help prepare for and protect against chemical accidents. Specifically, Suncor failed to timely report two releases and failed to report sulfuric acid in their industrial batteries to the local emergency responders.
Suncor certified that it addressed these findings.
Please see Consent Agreement and Final Order for more information.
Unguarded Saws Exposed Employees to Safety Hazards
The Texas-based operator of an Eclectic manufacturing facility could have prevented a 20-year-old worker from suffering an amputation if the employer had followed required federal safety standards, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation determined.
After Madix Inc. reported a March 23, 2023, employee injury, investigators with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that, as the worker tried to adjust a coolant feed line on a tube saw, his glove became caught, and his hand was pulled into the saw's spinning blade. The worker then suffered the amputation of three fingers.
A manufacturer of retail shelving and displays, Madix received citations for two repeat, three serious and three other-than-serious violations and faces $158,051 in proposed penalties.
OSHA's inspection found the company:
  • Allowed employees to perform maintenance on an automatic tube saw without following lockout-tagout procedures.
  • Did not ensure employees had the knowledge and skills to safely apply, use and remove energy controls on automatic tube cutters.
  • Permitted employees to operate a press machine with an unguarded material carriage, which exposed them to pinch-point hazards.
  • Failed to provide guards for a tube-cutting saw's blades, leaving employees exposed to amputation hazards.
  • Did not repair a broken emergency stop button on the side control panel of an automatic saw.
Since 2018, OSHA inspections at two Madix Inc. facilities in Alabama and one in Texas have identified one willful violation and eight serious violations. The inspections included a 2019 OSHA investigation of an employee's amputation injury in Eclectic that found similar machine guarding and lockout-tagout failures for which OSHA cited the company for three serious violations.
"A young man has suffered a life-altering injury simply because the employer failed to install machine guards and make sure to have lockout/tagout procedures in place to disable machinery," said OSHA Area Director Jose A. Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. "Madix's failures in past inspections raise concerns about how seriously the company takes its obligation to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace."
Established in 1982, Madix Inc. is headquartered in Terrell, Texas. The company manufactures metal and wood shelving and displays for retail stores with facilities in Eclectic and Goodwater, Alabama, and warehouses in the U.S. and the U.K. Madix employs about 500 workers in Eclectic.
Wire Drawing Company Willfully Exposed Workers to Unsafe Forklift Hazards
A federal investigation has found that a San Antonio wire drawing company could have prevented an employee from suffering fatal injuries by following required workplace safety standards.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection in February 2023 at WMC San Antonio LLC and learned the company allowed employees to ride atop an unsecured, site-made forklift attachment to move wire mesh bundles at the plant. At the time of the incident, the deceased worker was transporting bundles to flat-bed trailers when the attachment slid off the forks, causing them to fall. The employer had tasked workers with moving material from the plant to another WMC location as the company prepared to close the San Antonio facility.
OSHA issued WMC a willful citation for failing to provide fall protection for employees working at heights up to 13 feet. The company also received a second willful citation for exposing workers to fall and struck-by hazards by allowing them to ride on improper and unsecured forklift attachments. The agency has proposed $299,339 in penalties for its violations.
"WMC San Antonio ignored the well-documented dangers of using unauthorized forklift attachments and an employee's family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve their loss," said OSHA Area Director Alex Porter in San Antonio, Texas. "This company publicly claims that employee safety and well-being is a priority but then unnecessarily exposed workers to serious dangers. In this case, actions would have meant much more than words."
Founded in 2003 in Jacksonville, Florida, WMC San Antonio is now based in The Woodlands. The company also has mill facilities in Texas as well as California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
OSHA's stop falls website offers safety information and video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about fall hazards and proper safety procedures.
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