Before closing the office for the Thanksgiving holiday last Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to tighten air quality standards in order to fight ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog. EPA proposes to lower the ozone standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65 ppb to 70 ppb, but the agency is also accepting comment on a level as low as 60 ppb. IDFA is currently reviewing the 625-page proposal to determine how it would affect dairy foods manufacturers.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA must establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs) to limit the level of criteria pollutants, including ozone. EPA must review these air quality standards every five years; EPA’s review for ozone standards occurred last in 2008 when the 75 ppb standard was set.

State Implementation Plans

After EPA establishes the NAAQS for a pollutant, each state develops a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that identifies sources of air pollution and determines what reductions are required to meet the federal air quality standards. Geographic areas that meet or are below the NAAQS for a specific pollutant are designated as attainment areas, while those that do not meet NAAQs are non-attainment areas.

Regions in approximately a third of the United States are designated as non-attainment areas under the current 75 ppb standards; it is estimated that a 60 ppb standard would leave 95 percent of the country out of compliance.

The proposed ozone rule would require power plants, manufacturers and agricultural operations to limit emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react in sunlight to create ground-level ozone. Some food manufacturing practices, such as cooking, fermenting and baking, may emit small amounts of VOCs and NOx.

“IDFA plans to monitor progress on this proposal closely and work with EPA to ensure that the proposed regulation is reasonable and based upon the best available scientific information,” said Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs and counsel.

NAM Study: Most Expensive Regulation Ever Imposed

According to a study conducted by the National Manufacturers Association, the regulation would be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on industry. 

After publication in the Federal Register, EPA will seek public comment for 90 days and hold three public hearings about the proposed rule. EPA plans to issue final ozone standards by October 1, 2015.

For more information, contact Lyons at