New EPA ozone rules could shutter businesses

The EPA must explain how it whittled a $90 billion negative impact down to $16.5 billion

EPA’s proposed rule invoking tighter industry ozone standards is widely characterized as the most expensive regulation ever imposed upon the American public. If allowed, countless businesses wishing to expand or build new power plants and factories will face higher permitting thresholds, pay fines to offset their emissions, or even shut down altogether.

ozoneunseenAlthough an ozone standard authorized under EPA’s Clean Air Act ,doesn’t regulate businesses directly, it nevertheless accomplishes that same outcome. In forcing states to comply, they in turn can compel municipalities along with utilities, refineries, and other public and private entities to curb operations or install new equipment. Such costs are passed on to the nation and the public.

Whereas the “ozone layer” in the upper atmosphere which protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun is essential, when concentrated at ground level . . . not so much. Accordingly, few are likely to argue that regulating ground-level ozone, a key component of unhealthy smog, isn’t necessary. 

Formed by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, smog is recognized to trigger a variety of health problems including asthma and bronchitis. At issue is how much regulation, and at what true cost benefits?

Rapidly escalating regulatory burdens arise from exceedingly tiny incremental ozone emission reductions. The EPA currently proposes to further cut the existing limit of 75 parts per billion (ppb) ozone established in 2008 by the George W. Bush Administration to a range between 70 to 65 ppb, and even standards as low as 60 ppb.

According to Politico, industry groups argue that a 60-ppb rule “would instantly put much of the country out of compliance, bringing a lot of manufacturing to a halt.” For example, the American Chemical Council reports that 211 shale-related projects representing $135 billion in capital investment may be put at risk.

The Clean Air Act used to issue ozone limits specifically says the agency can only consider what best science says, not what it costs to get there, and the Supreme Court agrees. 

Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia (right) noted regarding that 2001 opinion, the law does provide for cost considerations in other areas of implementing pollution rules . . . not antoninjust one. 

Explaining this, he wrote that public health costs of a tight ozone standard may also “offset the health gains achieved in cleaning the air; for example, by closing down whole industries and thereby impoverishing the workers and consumers dependent upon those industries.” 

On a dollar cost basis EPA argues that over 10 years a 65-ppb standard will yield between $21.2 billion and $42.1 billion in health benefits compared with $16.5 billion in economic losses. Yet the agency estimated that this same limit they previously proposed and later withdrew in 2011 would cost businesses $90 billion a year. 

President Obama backed off from supporting the plan prior to his re-election bid. His stated reason for doing so was to “underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty.”

A study sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers was even much more pessimistic. It calculated that the 65-ppb standard would wipe out $3.4 trillion in economic output along with 2.9 million jobs by 2040. The organization pegged the annual price tag of a 60-ppb standard at $270 billion.

Reuters reports Terry McGuire, the Sierra Club’s Washington representative on smog pollution, is urging President Obama to push for the 60-ppb limit because he is freer to act now that he isn’t up for re-election. Politico quotes Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, sharing that hope — one of an Obama mind-set of “I am liberated and I’m able to do what I want to cement my legacy.”

On the other hand, the patina on that legacy won’t be burnished by a tanked economy and employment market. Democrat Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (beshearleft) has pleaded with Obama to back off because, as he put it, “The growth of our economy is dependent on it.” His letter to the President stated that a 60-ppb limit would mean that all 29 Kentucky air monitors would exceed the standard, while at 70 ppb, major metropolitan areas would be affected.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune has introduced legislation with bipartisan support to force postponement of the action. Likewise, incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, has pledged to do everything in his power to “rein in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations.”

We can only hope that the newly reconstituted Congress will do just that. Reining in the EPA’s planned economic ozone hole would be a good start.

NOTE:  A vesion of this article appeared at http://www.Newsmax.com/LarryBell/epa-regulation-obama-climate/2015/01/05/id/616383/#ixzz3NyaUrr6c

 

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About the Author: Larry Bell

Larry Bell

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."