By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory & legal issues, ARTBA

President Donald Trump April 12 directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake major reforms to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) process—a review of six pollutants required every five years by the Clean Air Act (CAA). Counties that have trouble meeting the standards can have their federal highway funds withheld.

In an his memo, the President directed EPA to undertake a comprehensive review of the entire NAAQS process, noting that as current standards have become more stringent, it has become “increasingly difficult” to construct “new manufacturing and industrial facilities or to modernize existing facilities.” The memo notes that current NAAQS standards are approaching “background” levels of pollution which are nearly for counties to meet because they are either naturally occurring or due to emissions that cannot be controlled (such as international sources). The President also directs EPA to establish a series of new deadlines in the NAAQS process in an effort to increase predictability and reduce delay.

On a related note, EPA also announced it would not tighten the CAA standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This is a regulatory victory for ARTBA, which has challenged the proposed standards for over a year. To make the case, ARTBA used EPA’s own data to note that NO2 levels have fallen by 57 percent since 1980. With air quality already improving, ARTBA suggested more thought should be given to adjusting existing requirements to “reduce regulatory burdens without sacrificing the success which has already been achieved.”