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Howard Feldman's Testimony regarding EPA’s Proposal to Change the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter

As prepared for delivery

Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2007–0492

Howard J. Feldman
American Petroleum Institute
July 17, 2012

Good morning, I am Howard J. Feldman, Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the American Petroleum Institute. Thank you for the opportunity to present API’s views on the proposed PM standards.

API represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America’s energy, supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, and delivers more than $86 million a day in revenue to the federal government. The industry has invested over $209 billion since 1990 toward improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities and operations. In the year 2009 alone, $12.4 billion was spent implementing new technologies, creating cleaner fuels, and funding ongoing environmental initiatives.

Recently, EPA has proposed to both establish new particulate matter standards and tighten some of the existing PM standards to unprecedented levels. Today I am commenting on the proposed fine particulate matter or PM2.5 standards.

First, today you will undoubtedly hear many speakers express doom and gloom regarding current air quality and assert that these standards need to be tightened to extreme levels. I think we all empathize with the desire for clean air that will be expressed numerous times today. I am encouraged by the progress our nation has made in reducing fine particle emissions in our skies. The concentration of PM2.5 in the nation’s air has declined by 24 percent between 2001 and 2010. The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has significantly contributed to these improvements by developing and manufacturing ultra-clean fuels that can be used in the new very low emission diesel and gasoline engines.

More good news is that the improvements will continue. States continue to implement their plans to meet the current standards. Furthermore, when announcing this proposal EPA stated that it has issued a number of rules already that will continue to make significant strides toward reducing fine particle emissions in the years ahead. These future improvements are independent of whether any action is taken to change these standards.

Back to this proposed rule. This is the culmination of a multi-year process to look at the science and determine if any compelling new science has been uncovered that warrants a change in the existing air quality standards. When the PM standards were last reviewed in 2006, EPA indicated it had already reviewed thousands of studies. After looking at that extensive information, the Administrator still made the policy decision to not change the annual primary PM 2.5 standard due to the uncertainty in the science.

That brings us to this latest proposal. This time EPA states that its review included 300 new epidemiological studies, and many of those allegedly report adverse health effects even in areas that meet the current PM2.5 standards. But it is also true that many did not. EPA has not proven a “cause and effect” between PM 2.5 below the current standards and health effects. It has failed to adequately address confounding factors. And it has assumed rather than provided evidence for a linear relationship between pollution levels and health effects.

So the question is whether the new science compels a change in the existing air quality standards. 

Dr. Goodman of Gradient will answer this question in detail in her testimony this morning. In summary, after careful review of the science, she has determined that the studies relied on by EPA for this proposal do not compel a lowering of the PM2.5 annual standard.

Also, note that proposed EPA policy changes will also likely result in reduced compliance with the existing standards. For example, EPA has proposed to require monitoring PM at roadside, for comparison to the lower annual PM standard. This could lead to an additional 30-100% stringency in the standard and this policy change alone would likely substantially increase non-attainment even if the PM standards were reaffirmed at their present levels.

Of course, tightening these standards would lead to additional non-attainment areas during the coming decade, even though air quality progress will continue without changing these standards. These additional non-attainment areas will stymie job and business growth when the economy is still struggling to recover. There is real concern regarding how many industries and consumers could be affected if the standards were to be lowered. And it is well documented that unemployment brings with it a whole separate set of adverse impacts on public health.

In conclusion, there is no need to move the goalposts now, before we attain the current standards. The Administrator should make the policy decision to reaffirm the current standards as there is no proven “cause and effect” between PM 2.5 levels below the current standards and health effects. Taken as a whole, the studies cut in different directions when it comes to making a case for lowering the standards and EPA has “assumed” rather than “provided evidence” for a linear relationship between pollution levels below the current standards and health effects.

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide this testimony.


  • Environment
  • Howard Feldman