Friday, December 08, 2006

EPA Announces Revised NAAQS Review Process

Dec 7: U.S. EPA officially announced its updated process for reviewing and setting the Agency's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). EPA said the updates will help improve the efficiency of the NAAQS review process and ensure that the best available science is used in making air quality decisions. The Clean Air Act requires that EPA review each standard on a five year schedule. EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock said, "EPA is bringing air rule making into the 21st Century. EPA is committed to a timely and transparent process that uses the most up-to-date science available."

EPA has been examining the NAAQS process for the past year to determine how it can be improved. On June 26, 2006, EPA held a public workshop to receive comments on an April 2006 Agency report on ways to improve the NAAQS review process [The so-called "Top-To-Bottom" NAAQS Review Report, See WIMS 4/4/06]. EPA also met with the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) to get input on recommendations for revising the process. At the time, CASAC's called the proposed process more costly and time consuming [See WIMS 5/18/06 & 6/13/06].

After considering comments, EPA said it will move forward with the following structure for reviewing the NAAQS:

Planning: After completion of each NAAQS review, EPA will prepare a science and policy plan that outlines the schedule, process and expectations for the next review. EPA will consult with the CASAC on the draft integrated plan.

Integrated Science Assessment: EPA will develop a more concise evaluation, integration and synthesis of the most policy-relevant science, including key science judgments that will be used in conducting the risk and exposure assessments. CASAC and the public will have an opportunity to evaluate and comment on drafts of the Integrated Science Assessment.

Risk/Exposure Assessment: EPA will more clearly link the Integrated Science Assessment and the Risk/Exposure Assessment to ensure that the characterization of risk and exposure are based on the clearest possible understanding of the available scientific information.

Policy Assessment/Rulemaking: The staff paper will be replaced with a more narrowly focused policy assessment that will connect the agency's scientific assessment and the judgments the administrator must make in determining whether it is appropriate to retain or revise the standards. This policy assessment will reflect the agency's views and will be published in the Federal Register as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). The ANPRM will provide both CASAC and the public the opportunity to review the policy options under consideration.

In a December 7, 2006, Memo from Peacock to Dr. George Gray, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Research and Development and Bill Wehrum, Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation he says, "Based on your advice to me following these public meetings and additional discussions with the internal working group, I have decided to institute a number of changes to the NAAQS review process. These changes reflect many of the recommendations contained in the working group's April report . Specifically, I direct your offices to proceed with the general structure recommended in your April 3, 2006 memo, as discussed below, which involves four major components: planning, science assessment, risk/exposure assessment, and policy assessment/rulemaking" [as summarized above and detailed further in the Memo].

The Memo continues, "In moving forward, I urge you to apply these revisions to the NAAQS review process to all upcoming NAAQS reviews and to any ongoing reviews . As to the latter, I would like these revisions to apply to the review of lead, which is currently underway. The last formal draft Staff Paper for lead, adhering to the previous standard setting process, has been transmitted to CASAC, and therefore the relevant changes noted above should apply to the remainder of the lead review."

Consistent with that request, EPA announced on December 5, that to date, the lead NAAQS review has followed its "historic approach" to reviewing NAAQS, including issuance of a criteria document and a first draft staff paper. The Agency said, however, that it is now moving forward to implement a "new, more efficient process for conducting NAAQS reviews." EPA said it intends to transition to the new process during the course of the lead NAAQS review [See WIMS 12/5/06].

Access an announcement of the new process (click here). Access the December 7, 3-page Memo which contains further details on the process (click here). Access the NAAQS website for background information including CASAC correspondence and other key documents (click here, scroll down). [*Air]