According to a report from The Hill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could release a new surface-level ozone rule as early as next week. Currently at 75 parts per billion, the new standard is likely to range from 65 to 70 parts per billion. A lower standard would place hundreds of communities nationwide in danger of ozone non-attainment.
After several changes of course on ozone, the Obama administration now appears to be moving forward with the new standard, which the administration says will help the environment and improve public health. However, groups such as National Association of Manufacturers say the new standard could represent the “most expensive regulation ever” with a price tag of more than one trillion dollars.
Local officials nationwide are concerned that a lower ozone standard could hamper economic development and endanger jobs. For example, Commissioner Tucker Dorsey of Baldwin County, Alabama, wrote in a guest blog last year that endangering new air permits in counties like his would mean “hitting the pause button on an already sputtering economy.”
In a letter sent to EPA this March, eleven U.S. governors also expressed their concern about lowering the ozone standard, calling a potential new standard “onerous” and “job-crushing.”
“The proposed [ozone rule] is so extreme that even some of our pristine national parks may not be able to satisfy it. It goes without saying that most cities and counties have no chance of attaining this standard,” wrote the governors. “Indeed, many areas of our states have background levels of ozone at or near the levels you are proposing. According to an estimate by the Congressional Research Service, EPA’s power-grab could plunge anywhere from 76% to 96% of the counties currently monitored for ozone into non-attainment.”
As the letter points out, even some national parks could fail to meet a lower national ozone standard. In fact, the National Association of Manufacturers made that the focus of a recent video campaign highlighting the absurdity of EPA’s rule-making.
Although EPA attempts to link a new ozone standard to reducing asthma, the science remains muddy at best. As one report points out, “While average levels of ozone have decreased 33 percent since 1980, the number of asthma patients has increased over that time. The Global Asthma Report for 2014 lists environmental factors which lead to asthma, but never mentions smog or ozone. The National Institutes of Health does not list climate change or ozone as a cause of asthma mainly because the exact causes are unknown.”
“Community leaders should watch EPA’s action in ozone very closely,” says PACE Executive Director Lance Brown. “Lowering the standard is likely to have widespread impact on counties from coast and coast and represent yet another regulatory hurdle standing in the way of economic recovery.”