EPA eyes tougher smog standard

  • 15-Jan-2010 02:58 EST

Automakers, suppliers, and other segments of the automotive industry—along with the general public—will have a chance to cheer or jeer the U.S. EPA's plans to make its ground-level ozone standard tougher.

Ozone is the primary component of smog and is created when nitrogen oxides (as produced from car and truck engines as well as powerplants and other sources) react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, especially in strong sunlight.

The agency will conduct three hearings—in Arlington, VA, and Houston Feb. 2; and in Sacramento Feb. 4—on its proposal to set the primary ozone standard between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million. That compares with the current limit of 0.075 ppm set in March 2008.

Also proposed is a secondary, seasonal ozone standard to protect plant life. Details of the proposal for the primary and secondary standard and their impact on various industries and groups had not been released as of Jan. 12. The EPA had issued a general announcement about its intention to propose a smog rule on Jan. 7.

The ozone standard puts mandates on states, not on industries and products. However, there could be indirect impacts on the automotive industry in terms of possible vehicle-use restrictions and other measures that states might adopt to comply with the ozone standard.

EPA has a separate standard that directly limits tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, from vehicles.

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