New NAAQS Proposal May Hit More Home Builders

Filed in Codes and Standards, Land Development by on December 4, 2014 0 Comments

backhoeThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new regulation revising the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone under the Clean Air Act – standards that could affect how builders and developers in affected counties go about their jobs.

EPA is proposing a new primary standard of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb) after finding that the current standard of 75 ppb is not adequate to protect public health. EPA is also proposing to update the secondary standard, to protect public welfare, to the same 65 to 70 ppb range. The standard was last revised in 2008.

Earlier this year, both the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee and EPA staff experts concluded that scientific evidence supports a standard within a range of 60 to 70 ppb. However, EPA said “increasing uncertainty in the scientific evidence at lower ozone concentrations” made the agency decide to set the higher limits.

EPA is mandated by the Clean Air Act to consider only public health when setting the standard and cannot take cost into consideration.

Under the proposed revisions, 358 counties would violate a 70 ppb standard and 200 others would violate a 65 ppb standard for a total of 558 counties.

If EPA designatesa county as non-attainment, its state has three years to put together a State Implementation Plan that contains a prescribed combination of federal and state air pollution control regulations to reduce ambient air pollution levels to meet new requirements, typically within 6 to 8 years.

The challenge is how to do it: While land development and residential construction activities are not typically directly regulated under the act, there have been some fairly draconian measures proposed with big impacts on home building.

For example, Texas wanted to ban the daytime use of all diesel construction equipment of 50 horsepower or greater during the ozone season (defined as April to October). Such a ban would have had an economic impact as high as $50-$70 million annually in Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area and another $100 to $135 million annually in Houston/Galveston metropolitan areas. NAHB members and HBA staff in Texas convinced the state to withdraw this controversial rule.

And in California, the San Joaquin Valley local air quality district took the unusual step of establishing an impact fee on developers and builders of up to $1,772 per home for developments with 25 or more housing units. It based that figure on the projected air pollution generated from diesel construction equipment and the presumed transportation-related air pollution generated by future home owners while commuting between employment centers and these housing developments. Unfortunately, that measure held.

These examples, while unusual, highlight the fact that many of these new likely designated non-attainment areas will increasingly look toward non-traditional sectors like home building to help achieve EPA’s more stringent ozone air quality standards.

EPA was under a court-ordered deadline to propose whether to revise or retain the current standard by Dec.1. EPA will take comments and hold public hearings, and projects that it will meet an Oct. 1, 2015, court-ordered deadline to finalize the rule.

After that, EPA anticipates final area designations based on 2014-2016 air quality data will likely occur by Oct. 1, 2017 if it revises the standard. See the proposed timeline for details.

For additional information on the Ozone NAAQS process, contact Tamra Spielvogel at 800-368-5242 x8327.

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