HTML _ IB95034 - Clean Air Act Issues for the 104th Congress
2-Dec-1996; James McCarthy; 10 p.

Abstract: The 104th Congress enacted four bills modifying provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and held numerous oversight hearings, as EPA and the states continued to implement requirements of the Act's 1990 Amendments. The Amendments set deadlines for issuance of new regulations and attainment of air quality standards. Substantial progress has been made in meeting the Act's objectives, but numerous issues remain on the horizon, including whether and how to revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, decisions regarding low emission and zero emission vehicles (LEVs/ZEVs), implementation of the Act's permit program, when to regulate methyl bromide to protect stratospheric ozone, and the desirability of additional regulation for sources of nitrogen oxides. In addition, reports to Congress on mercury and coal combustion, due soon, could raise the prospect of additional regulation of coal- fired power plants. Implementing some of the Act's requirements has proven controversial. In the first session, the 104th Congress acted to revise, delay, or rescind several specific provisions of the 1990 Act, notably those involving Employee Commute Option (ECO) programs and inspection and maintenance (I/M) requirements for auto emission control systems. On December 23, 1995, the President signed P.L. 104-70, which allows states with employee commute option programs to remove such requirements if they establish alternative methods to achieve equivalent emission reductions. P.L. 104-19, signed earlier, had prevented EPA from using FY1995 funds to enforce ECO requirements. The amount of flexibility EPA will allow states in developing CAA programs has been a recurring theme. In September 1995, EPA announced policy changes that would give more flexibility to states implementing auto emission inspection and maintenance programs, allowing states to adopt programs that do not use IM240, a costly new test procedure. Congress also acted on the issue: in P.L. 104-19 and 104-59, it prevented EPA from disapproving state I/M programs for failure to use IM240. The first session also passed legislation that would prevent EPA from implementing stringent pollution controls in California. Under court order, EPA had promulgated a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for three areas in California on February 14, 1995. P.L. 104-6 rescinded the FIP. As a result, California continued development of its own State Implementation Plan, which was approved by EPA in September 1996. Another set of controversies has arisen around the Act's requirements for cleaner- burning reformulated gasoline (RFG). A program requiring the use of RFG in the nine most polluted areas began January 1, 1995. Controversies have included the role of ethanol in the RFG market and the standards for RFG imports from Venezuela. In February 1996, the World Trade Organization found that the United States had violated international trade agreements in the way it approved RFG for import. A U.S. response to the decision has not yet been adopted. Despite controversies, the Clean Air Act appears to be contributing to an improvement in air quality nationwide. More than half of the 98 areas that did not meet air quality standards for ozone in 1990 now do so. Similar progress has been achieved with carbon monoxide: 28 of the 42 areas not in compliance in 1990 now meet the standard. [read report]

Topics: Air

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