The Environmental Protection Agency is expected next week to finalize its ozone rule, which would lower the acceptable levels of ozone from 75 parts per billion (PPB) to a range of 65-70 ppb.
Many areas will be in violation of such a low standard, which could kill jobs and economic development.
Harry C. Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce warned recently that in such cases, EPA “can step in and overrule state decisions to issue permits, stopping development and growth, with no consideration of the financial impact or loss of jobs.”
That could grind to a halt various capital projects, infrastructure improvements, and other economic activity so vital to cities and communities across the country.
A recent study from NERA Economic Consulting found that a stricter ozone regulation of 65 ppb would reduce U.S. GDP by $1.78 trillion from 2017 to 2040, cost an average of 1.4 million jobs annually through 2040, and cost the average U.S. household $896 per year in the form of lost consumption.
The prospect of this economic gut-punch has raised alarm bells nationwide.
Here’s a list of 260 organizations across the country calling on EPA to keep the current 75 ppb standard in place.
They represent every aspect of American business, ranging from groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Brick Industry Foundation to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers.
They’re not the only ones expressing grave concern.
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Laborers International Union of North America, National League of Cities, and U.S. Conference of Mayors are among those also warning about the risks of imposing an unworkable standard.
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado summed it up in describing what the new rule will mean for his state:
This is the perfect example of applying the law and doing it in a way that doesn’t make sense on the ground. Because of the pollution that’s come in from other Western states, from across the globe, from wildfires in the West, we have significant parts of our state that would be in non-attainment status from the very beginning of the law.
The president of the African-American Mayors Association, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, SC, recently wrote to President Obama on behalf of the organization to note that even EPA acknowledges the regulation will impose huge costs on the economy. The new rule, Mayor Benjamin said, “could hinder economic development and job creation that is so urgently needed in our cities and metropolitan areas across the country.”
A top official with the Industrial Union Council, meanwhile, told Politico this week that under the new rules, “Industries are going to decide it’s best not to be in the United States.”
These comments echo those of the two dozen governors and senior state environmental officials who are on record opposing the new standard, not to mention numerous newspaper editorial boards.
The big question for the Obama administration is why we need new regulations at all when the current ones are working.
Ozone levels have dropped 18 percent since 2000. Moreover, as the ad below from the National Association of Manufacturers points out, EPA’s own projections say that ozone levels will continue to fall under the current standard.
I’ll point out these regulations would be imposed in the absence of any compelling health benefits they might deliver.
At a time when the economy continues to struggle, the potential damage coming from this new standard is difficult to fathom.
That explains why opposition to the proposed regulations is bringing together Americans of all political persuasions.