Despite the fact that it’s widely expected to be among the most costly regulations in our nation’s history – if not the most costly – the EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards has managed to stay somewhat below the radar in recent months.
For the manufacturers that make up our membership, this is a big problem, because the administration’s proposal threatens to badly undermine the circumstances that have helped to spur our nation’s manufacturing comeback. The impacts would be no less profound for the public at large, which would face higher energy prices, the prospect of millions of lost jobs, and well over a hundred billion dollars each year in costs. Given the stakes, we are eager to raise the profile of this critical issue. This week, we hit Capitol Hill alongside hundreds of our members to help make sure that lawmakers are listening to their constituents, and that they recognize the danger that this new rule represents.
On Wednesday, NAM and several of its member companies participated in a briefing for the House Manufacturing Caucus aimed at illustrating for lawmakers the concerns harbored by businesses large and small about the new ozone standard. In that meeting, we heard from NAM members and policy experts, who told members, staff and stakeholders more about the struggles that ozone nonattainment will mean for their communities.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee heard from local regulators, air quality managers, and more regarding the EPA’s proposal.
And finally, on Thursday, I testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology regarding the impact of EPA regulatory overreach on American competitiveness. In my testimony, I pointed to the drain that burdensome environmental regulations are causing for American businesses especially manufacturers.
“Why does this proposed ozone regulation matter? Because nonattainment is a significant barrier to growth. Nonattainment is a significant deterrent to manufacturers to build or expand in an area because the permits are so difficult to obtain compared to those in an attainment area. Companies building or expanding facilities in nonattainment areas are required to install specific technologies regardless of cost, and projects cannot move forward unless ozone is reduced from other sources.
These “offsets” are neither cheap nor easy to obtain. Currently, offset prices in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria nonattainment area are close to $175,000 per ton of NOx and $275,000 per ton of VOC. Offset prices in southern California nonattainment areas are approaching $125,000 per ton of NOx. Rural areas, which could become new nonattainment areas under a tighter standard, may lack offsets altogether, making the offset requirement a total barrier to new projects.
“Even manufacturers not looking to expand will be subject to restrictive new regulations in nonattainment areas. For instance, in the Houston nonattainment area, existing facilities are subject to additional controls under the Highly Reactive VOC (HRVOC) rule, and combustion units, such as boilers and ethylene crackers, must install SCRs and low-NOx burners. In the most severe cases, states with nonattainment areas could lose federal highway and transit funding.”
The surge of attention paid to this issue over the course of the last few days is encouraging. It means that leaders and newsmakers inside the Beltway are picking up on the chorus of concern growing at the state and local level, not just from our members and others the business community, but from local regulators, mayors, and countless others that are staring down the barrel of this rule.
But despite a productive week, we have a long way to go. We’re less than four months out from the issuance of the costliest rule in the history of the United States – a regulation that threatens to stop the manufacturing comeback in its tracks. We – along with our members and countless other stakeholders concerned by this rule – will continue our work to highlight the importance a stable regulatory environment to our nation’s economic outlook.
The stakes, after all, have never been higher.