Predictability v. Inevitability: Ozone Regs, the Next Phase

By March 12, 2009General

From NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 11, 2009, “Smoggy Skies May Cause Respiratory Death“:

Given the new evidence, advocates will likely push for a new “annual average” standard that aims at further reducing the overall burden of smog.

Another study, another demand for an expanded regulation.

Businesses and groups like the National Association of Manufacturers often plead for predictability from policymakers: Please, create a clear and consistent statutory and regulatory environment, one that lets businesses and investors plan for the future. That bill, that reg, that compromise — they’re awful and anti-competitive, but if they remain in place for the next 10 or 20 years, well, we can live with it. Just give us predictability.

The argument is good, the result rarely good. In a world where change = progress, elected officials get more mileage from constantly reworking statutes, regulations and compromises. Thanks to the rewards of politics, the only predictability business can count on is the lack of predictability.

And if business asks for consistency, anti-business organizations aren’t interested: OK, we won that battle, we got that reg. Now get back to work and demand more!

The ozone regulations mentioned above is a prime case in point. A year ago the EPA issued a final rule, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone (Federal Register, March 27, 2008), setting new, lower standards for ground-level ozone concentrations. The final rule represented a huge expansion of government control over not just manufacturing, but all sorts of human activities, with billions of dollars in additional costs to business, government and the taxpayers and consumers.

The NAM and its member companies had argued for maintaining the current ozone standards, since air quality was already improving. Even the questionable science used to buttress the EPA’s proposals failed to demonstrate clear health benefits. (NAM fact sheet) A simple argument: The current standards are working, let’s let them work further. You know, predictability.

But the Bush Administration’s EPA split the baby, moving toward the environmentalists’ demand for even stricter regulation.

Issue settled, right? Of course not. There’s always another study, another demand for more regulation, stricter rules and harsher treatment of jobs creators.

From USA Today reporting on the study, “Ozone pollution amplifies risk of fatal respiratory illnesses,” citing Janice Nolen, a lobbyist with the American Lung Association: “The study also suggests the Environmental Protection Agency may need to reconsider its safety standard for ozone, Nolen says.”

Well, THAT’s predictable.

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