EPA, Derailing the Recovery

By January 7, 2010General

After closing out 2009 with a formal “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gas emissions and a separate rulemaking for first-time regulation of greenhouse gases from industrial sources, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it seeks to impose even stricter national standards for ground-level ozone, or smog. These major regulations, taken as a whole, pose a serious threat to the country’s attempt to climb out of the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s.

Today’s action comes less than two years after EPA issued a new standard for ozone in 2008, which already lowered the 1998 standard from 0.84 parts per million (ppm) to 0.75 ppm. Federal regulators are proposing stricter standards despite the fact that EPA’s own data show a 25 percent decline of smog concentrations nationwide from 1980 to 2008.

While federal regulators claim public health as the main rationale for stricter standards, the Administration appears to ignore potential impacts on the health of the economy. According to EPA’s own statistics, which are generally understated, new ozone rules will cost anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion. When the National Association of Manufacturers advocated against stricter standards in 2007 — proposed even as the 1998 standard was still being implemented — the NAM and its industry partners developed maps showing the potential reach of stricter regulations. According to this 2007 analysis, a standard in the range EPA is proposing, between 0.60 and 0.70 ppm, more than 1,200 counties in all the lower 48 states – except Montana – would carry the regulatory burden of a so-called “non-attainment” designation from EPA. Such a classification means new controls on everything ranging from construction activity (stimulus, anyone?) to transportation fuel blends and emissions from increasingly smaller stationary sources.

The Clean Air Act is broken and susceptible to endless litigation, as today’s announcement will undoubtedly demonstrate. The NAM urges federal lawmakers to implement modern, rational, predictable and streamlined environmental policies that will foster economic growth, while not otherwise penalizing environmental progress. In the context of continued declining ozone levels nationwide, today’s announcement shows that with EPA, no good deed goes unpunished.

Bryan Brendle is Director of Energy and Resources Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.

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