EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson last week called for key changes to the process for reviewing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect human health and the environment.
“It’s essential that the best science and the greatest transparency inform air quality standards that prevent illness and save lives,” said Jackson. “These changes will help us bring a greater rigor and openness to our standard-setting process and improve the scientific basis for our standards.”
EPA sets NAAQS for six key pollutants known as “criteria pollutants” that are commonly found across the United States. They are ozone, particle pollution (particulate matter), lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
EPA is reinstating the role of a key policy document created by agency scientists that contains staff analyses of options for the administrator to consider when setting air quality standards. This document, known as a “staff paper,” will be made available to the agency’s science advisors and the public prior to the initiation of formal rulemaking.
The previous administration replaced the so-called staff paper with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking outlining potential options for air quality standards in the Federal Register.
In a separate letter to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), Administrator Jackson reaffirmed the committee’s role in guiding the agency to make scientifically sound decisions. The CASAC was established by the Clean Air Act to provide the administrator with independent technical advice on national air quality standards.
In addition to restoring the policy document, Administrator Jackson is retaining previous changes that improved the review process. Those include a public workshop early in the NAAQS review, and the restructuring of key science and risks documents so they are more concise and focused on key scientific and policy issues. Jackson also asked staff to consult with scientific experts in other federal agencies that have responsibility for public health and environmental protection early in the review of each air quality standard.