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  Legislative Feature

EPA Tightens Smog Standard

What Does This Mean for Automotive Repairers?

Posted 5/1/2008
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.

An analysis of the new EPA standard that will affect clean air requirements.

The Clean Air Act directs the federal government to set air quality standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set standards for six pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Stephen L. Johnson, EPA administrator, recently announced the new ozone allowable standard. The pollution-forming ozone standard was 0.08 parts per million. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review the science for determining the ozone standard every five years. The Clean Air Act is 37 years old. The standard was last revised in 1997.

The four principles outlined by Johnson recommend the following for the Clean Air Act and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS):

  1. Must protect the public health and improve the overall well-being of our citizens;
  2. Should allow decision-makers to consider benefits, costs, risk trade-offs, and feasibility in making decisions about how to clean the air;
  3. Should provide greater accountability and effective enforcement to ensure not only paper requirements but also air quality requirements are met, especially in areas with the furthest to go in meeting our standards;
  4. Should allow the schedule for addressing NAAQS standards to be driven by the available science and the prioritization of health and environmental concerns, taking into account the multi-pollutant nature of air pollution.

Of the new standard, Johnson commented, “The United States has made significant progress reducing ground-level ozone across the country. Since 1980, ozone levels have dropped 21 percent as the EPA, states and local governments have worked together to improve the quality of the nation’s air. The EPA expects improvement to continue, as a result of landmark regulations such as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, to reduce emissions from power plants in the East, and the Clean Diesel Program, to reduce emissions from highway, non-road and stationary diesel engines nationwide.”

The administrator outlined major sources of human-made pollution including motor vehicle exhaust but again failed to highlight the importance of vehicle emissions testing.

To follow up on the administrator’s concern over costs, Johnson may ask Congress to assist in allowing costs to be considered when developing these regulations. It is anticipated that Congress will not give this serious consideration.

The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Commission recommended the standard be set with a low of 0.06 ppm and a high of 0.07 ppm. The administrator issued a rule establishing the new standard at 0.075 ppm. Public health groups and environmentalists were not pleased with the 0.075 ppm ruling.

In addition to cleaner air, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) has been concerned with the lack of emphasis the EPA has placed on vehicle emissions testing programs. With the majority of the debate related to testing having occurred in the 1990s, emissions testing has taken a back seat in public policy during this administration. There has been little growth in programs and in some states, such as Ohio and Kentucky, programs have been weakened or eliminated in the last few years.

ASA leaders have met on several occasions with the EPA to discuss how the programs might be advanced but received little encouragement from regulators. Please note that even under the old ozone standard, there are 85 counties that have not met these rules.

ASA has placed on its legislative Web site the list of counties that the EPA believes will violate the new ozone standard. Please go to to review this list and click on Press Center and then select References and Bills. The EPA staff will have much more specific information relative to this piece of the regulation later this summer.

It is very important that automotive repairers contact their state air quality regulators to discuss what strategies they are considering for new air quality plans. ASA will continue to encourage the EPA and states to promote the vehicle testing option as a critical piece to meeting the new standard.

Similar to the California greenhouse gas uproar, the final hours prior to the release of the new regulation have produced significant controversy. Already the denial of the California waiver has stimulated multiple congressional hearings and investigations. It is anticipated that Congress will add the ozone rulemaking process to its “to do” list of investigations.

Bob Redding Bob Redding is the Automotive Service Association's Washington, D.C., representative. He is a member of several federal and state advisory committees involved in the automotive industry.

For more information about the legislative activities of ASA, visit


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