Tuesday, August 2, 2011

High on Ozone: The EPA’s Latest Assault on Jobs and the Economy

The U.S. economy won a temporary reprieve with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement last week that new ozone standards, which had been slated for this summer, will be delayed. The EPA’s “reconsideration” of the ozone standards it set in 2008 and issuance of more stringent standards violate all three of the fundamental values EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged to honor: “science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency.”[1]

This enormously expensive regulation is unsupported by scientific evidence, violates the Clean Air Act (CAA), and appears timed to evade ongoing judicial review of the rulemaking process. Even the EPA’s estimate that the new rule will impose up to $90 billion in compliance costs annually[2] severely understates the impact on economic development and jobs in communities where attainment of the new standards will be impossible. Congress should make the EPA’s temporary postponement of its new ozone standards a permanent one.

Background

The CAA requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, among other pollutants, at a level that is not “higher than is necessary…to protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety.”[3] Areas that are not in attainment must reduce emissions from existing sources and impose stringent controls on new ones. Even areas in attainment must strictly regulate new sources to prevent any increase in emissions.

In 2008, as part of the regular NAAQS review process, the EPA revised the ozone standard to 0.075 parts per million (ppm), down from the 0.080 ppm level set by the Clinton EPA.

In 2009, just months after President Obama took office, the EPA announced that it would “reconsider” and revise the 2008 standard, circumventing the mandatory process for revisions specified in the CAA. On January 19, 2010, the agency proposed to set a primary standard in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm and, in an unprecedented step, introduce a separate and additional secondary standard (intended to protect such things as vegetation) based on cumulative ozone concentrations in summer. The EPA’s case for the new NAAQS is based on its controversial re-analysis of the data from two small studies that even their author states does not support reduced standards. Indeed, Jackson concedes that the scientific support for both the 2008 standards and the current proposal is “limited.”[4]

Unprecedented Expense

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