One Of The ‘Costliest Regulations Ever’: Obama Admin Drops New Ozone Rule

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Obama administration will be tightening national smog standards, angering manufacturers who will now be burdened with billions of dollars in costs and irking environmentalists who think the regulation doesn’t go far enough.

“Today, the Obama Administration finalized a rule that is overly burdensome, costly and misguided,” Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement. “The new ozone standard will inflict pain on companies that build things in America-and destroy job opportunities for American workers.”

EPA will tighten smog, or ground-level ozone, limits from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. The agency argues tightening ozone standards is necessary to protect public health — despite the fact that states have not fully complied with the current ozone standards.

While the EPA did not tighten ozone standards as low as environmental groups were pushing for, the regulation could still end up being one of the costliest regulation ever imposed on the U.S. economy, according to a report by NAM examining the economic impacts of lowering smog limits to 65 parts per billion. By 2040, tightened ozone standards could end up costing $1.7 trillion dollars and killing 1.4 million jobs, according to the study. The EPA did not actually go to a 65 parts per billion standard, but NAM maintains the rule will still be extremely expensive.

EPA’s own cost-benefit analysis claims lower ozone levels will result in huge public health benefits, including fewer asthma attacks and premature deaths. Critics of the rule say the EPA math is flawed and argue the agency is misleading on the health benefits of less ozone.

“Make no mistake, lowering the ozone standard is not going to provide new health benefits, according to the EPA’s own analysis,” said Lee Fuller, executive vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “Those who are calling for a lower standard are ignoring EPA’s own analysis, which concludes that the most populated ‘nonattainment’ areas of the country will fail to meet the new standard.”

Even accomplished scientists have criticized EPA for claiming that ozone will result in fewer premature deaths as there’s no clear association between higher smog levels and mortality. There’s also not much evidence that reducing ozone will reduce asthma attacks or the asthma rate.

“In Denver, ozone doesn’t kill you, but in Colorado Springs it does kill you. They are about 70 miles apart and Denver has about 10 percent more ozone than in Colorado Springs,” said Michael Honeycutt, chief toxicologist with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Environmentalists have countered these arguments by pointing to the conclusions of the EPA’s own scientific advisory council, which advised in June 2014 that “based on the scientific evidence, a level of 70 ppb provides little margin of safety for the protection of public health, particularly for sensitive subpopulations.”

The panel recommended lower ozone limits to 60 parts per billion, instead.

“The revised standard will provide real health benefits compared to today’s unsafe level of 75 ppb,” said John Walke, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But by setting a health standard that does not adequately protect Americans against harmful levels of smog pollution, President Obama has missed a major opportunity.”

Ground-level ozone forms when air pollutants, from natural and man-made sources, mingle together in the presence of sunlight. EPA requires already requires states to limit the amount smog-forming pollutants they emit, but states are worried that ozone from China and nature will make it nearly impossible to comply with the new rules.

For example, a 2014 study found that more than 100 state and national parks would be out of compliance with a 70 parts per billion ozone standard — these areas aren’t exactly centers of industry.

“Hardly transportation corridors and centers of heavy pollution, many observers would be surprised to know that Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Cape Cod National Seashore have ozone readings of 71 to 87 [parts per billion],” reads the report from the right-leaning American Action Forum.

The tighter standard is expected to force hundreds of U.S. counties to be out of compliance with EPA rules, inviting potential federal intervention. Counties out of compliance could be forced to curb industrial activities and even oil and gas production.

“Just as Obama’s carbon regulation has little to do with climate change, Obama’s ozone regulation has little to do with ozone,” said Tom Pyle, president of the free-market Institute for Energy Research. “America’s ozone levels are declining, yet EPA responds with more regulation.”

“Obama’s ozone and carbon schemes are designed to centralize power and control in Washington, invite federal bureaucrats into every aspect of our daily lives, and fulfill the president’s goal to ‘fundamentally transform’ America,'” Pyle said.

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