November 9, 1995 TNRCC Commissioner Marquez testified before Congress that ozone is "benign"
SUMMARY OF THE TESTIMONY OF R.B. (RALPH) MARQUEZ BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEES ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS AND HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT, THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE November 9, 1995
When TNRCC Commissioner Marquez testified before Congress (Chairman Joe Barton's (R-Dallas) House Commerce subcommittee and Michael Bilirakis (R-?), he said in the excerpt provided on page 5 "…After all ozone is not a poison or a carcinogen. It is a relatively benign pollutant to other environmental risks." So there is no need to develop or implement a new 8-hour ozone standard. TNRCC staff later stated that Marquez wrote that last part of the TNRCC statement himself into his testimony after the staff had drafted a reasonable statement for him and they disagreed with him on "benign" ozone. Obviously Governor Bush supports the view that "…ozone is a relatively benign pollutant" or he would not have authorized Commissioner Marquez to testify on the record as a Texas environmental official. Marquez also gave the subcommittee a copy of the October 31, 1995 TNRCC memos-- " Texas Position on Revisiting the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard" and "Proposed Commission Position on Ozone Nonattainment Calculations."
Marquez made the four following points in his introductory testimony on a cover page: (1) OZONE AS A SURROGATE FOR HAZARDOUS POLLUTANTS. EPA's use of ozone as a surrogate for control of other dangerous pollutants should be discontinued. Under Title III EPA has authority to control hazardous pollutants. (2) THE UNCERTAINTY OF OZONE CAUSES. Since many of the current control theories are derived using assumptions that each have certain margins of error, the use of these assumptions built on each other increase the continuing uncertainty of the causes of ozone. EPA has added to this uncertainty with their shifting control strategies. (3) SHOULD THE STANDARD BE REVISED? The ozone standard should be revised as indicated in the attached Texas Proposal. (4) REASSESSING PRIORITIES (STEPPING OUT OF THE BOX). It is time that we as a nation, step out of the current ozone control philosophy box and reassess our air pollution priorities. Considering the extremely high costs for very little demonstrated benefit from ozone control, I suggest that review of our national environmental priorities is needed and that greater focus on other issues for which the cost of control could result in greater benefits is necessary.
Page 1: "Chairman Barton and Bilirakis. members of the subcommittee, my name is Ralph Marquez and I am currently serving as a Commissioner on the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to present the following testimony to your subcommittee on the subject of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. We in Texas have been regulating emissions of the compounds that contribute to ozone formation for more than 20 years. While these regulatory programs have resulted in some downward trends in measured levels of ozone, we have not been able to bring all of our areas into compliance with the current standard in state, regulated community, and public. We believe it is time to re-evaluate our current approach to reducing the levels of ozone and make appropriate adjustments. Therefore I would like to address the four following points.
Pages 1-2: (1) OZONE AS A SURROGATE FOR HAZARDOUS POLLUTANTS. Having worked in the pollution control area for over 20 years in my previous career and current position, I can recall that one of the original reasons the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focused attention on ozone control in the early 1970's was to address the Los Angeles smog but it soon became a mechanism to reduce specific chemicals which at the time EPA did not have the authority to control. The argument at that time was that even though reductions in volatile organic compounds (VOC) may not result in the anticipated reduction in ozone levels, it is still a step in the right direction because it will reduce dangerous air pollutants. With the authority of Title III of the Federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, EPA no longer needs to rely on ozone control as a surrogate for control of hazardous pollutants. While the VOC reduction strategy has lowered the ozone levels, the hidden agenda to use ozone as a surrogate should be discontinued.
Pages 2-3: (2) THE UNCERTAINTY OF OZONE CAUSES. The current ozone control strategy is based on many theories that are themselves derived using assumptions and each have certain margins of error. These assumptions with their recognized margins of error are built upon the other thereby multiplying the margin of error several times which results in control strategies that are inherently uncertain. We in the technical community seem to address ozone control as a discipline with a high degree of uncertainty as if the mathematical model results are an absolute truth. We know that this is not so. An indication that we are not as sure as we sound is EPA's shifting strategies. First, they focused on VOC controls and then nitrogen oxides (NOx) control programs. EPA now seems to be shifting again to control of very small particulate matter (PM2.5). We are making progress and we must continue to work toward whether any, even all, of their required control strategies will bring the nation's nonattainment areas into attainment. The cumulative costs of implementing these shifting strategies continue to climb. We must be more cautious than in the past. We cannot continue to pursue new strategies without regard to their cost to the nation.
Pages 2-3: (3) SHOULD THE STANDARD BE REVISED? There has also been recent interest as to whether the level of the ozone standard and compliance with that standard is evaluated should be revised. The current standard is set to be protective of even the most sensitive of the population and vast areas of states are subjected to the rigorous control requirements of the Clean Air Act sometimes on the basis of a single monitor exceeding that standard. This approach has resulted in tremendous economic burdens being placed on large areas of the country, when a limited number of monitors indicate high ozone levels that may be localized in nature. Additional monitoring in other areas is needed to help understand the creation and movement of ozone, but the current standard and EPA monitoring policy discourage the basis of as little as 4 one-hour measurements above the standard in a three year period. We believe that the standard needs to be revised to focus more on the causes of high levels at localized monitors than on control programs for larger geographical areas such as the Houston nonattainment area which covers some 7,800 square miles and is larger than the state of New Jersey. This revision should also incorporate features to encourage additional monitoring in new areas. I have provided you with a proposal developed by our staff which would address those concerns.
Pages 4-5:(4) REASSESSING PRIORITIES (STEPPING OUT OF THE BOX). I believe that it is time that we as a nation, step out of the current ozone control philosophy box and reassess our air pollution priorities. Over 20 years of control programs focused on VOC reductions to bring ozone levels down have shown some degree of success, but only at tremendous cost for the public, regulated community and states. To me, it does not seem that the benefits derived have warranted that tremendous cost. Despite these great effects and exorbitant economic impacts, ozone levels have decreased but remain above the standard in many areas, while demonstrated detrimental effects have been virtually nonexistent. Considering these extremely high costs for very little demonstrated benefit, I suggest that a review of our national environmental priorities is needed and that greater focus on other issues for which the cost of control could result in greater benefits. After all, ozone is not a poison or a carcinogen. It is a relatively benign pollutant compared to other environmental risks."
Citation: TNRCC Commissioner Ralph Marquez's testimony before Congress November 9, 1995.