Within days, the Obama EPA is expected to announce their decision to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.
In so doing, EPA is essentially changing the definition of clean air. The practical effect is that businesses and states will have to drastically curtail their development plans in order to meet the new standards. In some cases, in areas that cannot meet the requirements, development will grind to a halt.
This isn’t mere hyperbole: EPA estimates that this rule could cost as much as $90 billion annually, making it the most expensive regulation ever proposed.
Not only will the rule break records for costs – and this will significantly raise the price of energy for all Americans – by EPA’s own projections, it could put 650 additional counties into the category of “non-attainment,” which is the equivalent of posting a “closed for business” sign on communities. Affected counties will suffer from severe EPA-imposed restrictions on job creation and business expansion, including large numbers of plant closures. The rule has been projected to result in as many as 7 million lost jobs by 2020, with an estimated decline in GDP of close to 4 percent.
With at least fifteen counties in Oklahoma facing this threat – Adair, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Cleveland, Creek, Dewey, Kay, Mayes, McClain, Oklahoma, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Sequoyah, and Tulsa – the state could lose 177,000 jobs by 2020. Oklahoma’s two largest newspapers have weighed in with editorials expressing their concerns about the impacts of the proposed rule.
There is no doubt that this rule’s devastating consequences for our economy have caused the final promulgation of the ozone reconsideration to be delayed not once, but twice over the past two years by the Obama Administration.
Getting the Facts Straight
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said that the Agency is legally bound to tighten ozone standards, on the grounds that the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) created by the Clean Air Act (CAA) supports it.
But this is not case: this proposal comes on the heels of the revised 2008 ozone standard, which was lowered significantly from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb. The CAA only requires a NAAQS revision “at least” every five years, so EPA is under no obligation currently to revise the standard. Furthermore, the CAA is very clear that EPA is not bound by CASAC’s recommendations.
However, the CAA does require that EPA review the best available science every five years. Yet, EPA’s proposal is based on the same scientific and technical record used in the 2008 ozone review, and the Agency has even conceded that it is not relying on any new ozone studies published since the science assessment supporting the 2008 review was completed in 2006. This means that EPA is using scientific studies that are at least five years old, clearly not relying on the “latest scientific knowledge,” which the CAA requires. Not only does EPA have no compelling science to justify tightening the ozone NAAQS, the Agency has repeatedly discounted or ignored studies reporting no significant association between current levels of ozone and asthma exacerbation. EPA has also at times, discounted multiple no-effect studies to rely instead on single studies showing an effect.
The Bottom Line
EPA’s rulemaking process paints a picture of an Agency bent on creating needless economic pain, destroying jobs and stunting economic growth at a time when our nation is working to recover from a jobless recession. And ozone is just the beginning: new standards for industrial boilers, Portland Cement plants, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the recently released Transport rule are all part of the Obama EPA’s regulatory “train wreck” that will wreak havoc on our economy. Instead of going through with this rule, EPA should immediately recognize that it significantly harms the very people EPA so vehemently claims to protect, especially the poor and elderly, who can little afford higher energy costs, and those whose jobs and livelihoods will be unnecessarily eliminated.