Tighter Air Quality Standards Would Push Up Building Costs
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed tightening the nation’s air quality standards for ground-level ozone, a move that would likely result in a significant increase in the number of “non-attainment” counties in the country.
To deliver new housing in non-attainment areas, builders typically are required to juggle regulations aimed at bringing the ozone levels in those jurisdictions down to desired levels.
According to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, 104 of the 639 counties monitored for ozone pollution are still not complying with the 1997 standards. Under the new EPA proposal, 398 counties would be in violation.
NAHB is awaiting more information about the extent of the non-attainment areas and will file comments once the new maps and the final proposal are released this month.
The proposed revisions — including a parts per million reduction from .08 to somewhere between .07 and .075 — reflect new scientific evidence about ozone and its effects on people and public welfare, according to the EPA.
Breathing air containing ozone can aggravate asthma or other respiratory conditions, and for people with heart and lung disease it has been associated with increased respiratory infections, hospital admissions and premature deaths.
This is the first that time the agency has sought to revise the ozone standard since 1997, although the EPA estimates that ozone levels have dropped by 21% since 1980.
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, according to EPA, but is created through a reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound emissions in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are the major man-made sources contributing to elevated ground-level ozone.
In its comments to the EPA, NAHB will be emphasizing the effects of the rule on the home building industry and seeking regulatory balance to avoid placing more upward pressure on residential construction costs, although the agency does not have to consider costs when proposing new ozone emission rules.
The agency will take public comment for 90 days following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register and will hold public hearings in Los Angeles and Philadelphia on Aug. 30, and in Chicago and Houston on Sept. 5.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.