EPA’s new ozone regulations overburden local governments, say critics

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The Environmental Protection Agency is driving a new ozone regulatory agenda that critics say will cripple local governments, small businesses and other industries nationwide.

President Barack Obama’s EPA aims to reduce the acceptable level of ozone in any given region from 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion.

If implemented, the regulations would force local governments that fail to attain this goal to develop their own plans to reduce their ozone levels.

Critics say the new EPA target levels are overly burdensome and unrealistic.

“The EPA has set the proposed range so low, between 60 and 70 ppb, that they’re getting very close to background levels,” Alicia Meads, energy and resources policy director for the National Association of Manufacturers, said. “So, essentially, if the EPA sets it close to 60 ppb, areas like Yellowstone National Park are going to be in non-attainment.”

In addition to expected job losses, Meads said costs for meeting these new regulations would be split between local governments, small businesses and industry.

In a letter to Obama urging him to stop these regulations, a coalition between NAM and 35 state-level manufacturing associations cites a Manufacturers Alliance study that estimates the EPA’s new ozone regulations would eliminate 7.3 million jobs by 2020.

If local governments refuse to comply with these mandates, Mike McKenna of the American Energy Alliance said they will put their federal highway funds in jeopardy. The EPA could also take over the local government and develop a plan for them.

According to McKenna, athough the EPA doesn’t administer federal highway funding, the Clean Air Act gives the agency the power to withhold the funding if local governments don’t follow its mandates.

McKenna expects a bipartisan push against the EPA once local governments become aware of the  impact. “It’s going to be mayhem, and it’s going to be bipartisan mayhem,” he said. “When you look at the map of who’s going to be out of attainment, a huge chunk of the areas are run by Democratic mayors.”

The Bush administration lowered the acceptable ozone levels to 75 ppb in 2008. Since the EPA was not required to revisit the issue for five years and no court has required a further reduction in acceptable ozone levels, critics are questioning the timing of the new regulations.

“As soon as Obama was elected president, the radicals at the EPA are just running wild,” Tom Borelli, the director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project, argued. “Counties and business were trying to address that [the standard from 2008], but after Obama was elected, they come out and change the rules and move the goal posts again.”

Borelli said that “just like Obamacare,” the EPA is “throwing all these processes and rules to the side” to further its “left-wing environmental agenda.”

“They’re trying to ram as many regulations as they can down our throats now as fast as they can,” Borelli claimed.

Borelli and McKenna both argue that there is a lack of consistent scientific evidence  indicating that there would be any public health or environmental benefits from the new ozone regulations. McKenna said Obama administration officials have “washed their hands of” most concerns economic or environmental experts have raised.

“We’re fighting against a proposed standard that’s not based on much, and is really going to be just disastrous,” McKenna said. “It’d be one thing if it’d be really bad for the economy and it was going to save millions of lives. This is going to wholesale destroy the economy in certain parts of this country and it’s not going to save any lives.”