There aren’t many people who’d say “no” when asked whether they want cleaner air. But crafting sensible, realistic environmental regulations requires the consideration of more than simply slashing pollutants in the name of public health—a fact lost on the current Environmental Protection Agency.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate ground-level ozone, and under the agency’s current standard, localities that average more than 75 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone over an 8-hour period are considered out of compliance with the EPA’s rule. Last week, the EPA announced it will lower that limit to 70 ppb, another example of government overreach that will negatively affect job creators and job seekers.
Five parts per billion sounds infinitesimally small, but the agency’s new 70 ppb standard will have a profound effect on local governments, businesses, and individuals across the country.
Non-compliance is a huge deal for cities and counties. When they can’t comply with the EPA’s limit, they’re forced to submit an action plan to the agency explaining how they’ll reduce their ozone levels. That means imposing new rules and regulations on businesses, making it harder for industries from manufacturers to bakeries to operate in a “non-compliant” city. And in non-compliant localities, infrastructure projects like building new schools and roads require even more permits and red tape before they can move forward.
Even when local governments take action to slash ozone levels, many are still unable to meet the current 75 ppb standard, largely because naturally occurring background ozone contributes up to two-thirds of all ozone. Pollutants don’t just stop at city limits, or even country borders. New research shows ozone emissions from China and other countries are blowing across the Pacific and keeping the U.S. West Coast from meeting ozone targets.
Not only is the EPA’s new ozone rule unachievable in many parts of the country, but the scientific basis for lowering the limit has been widely criticized for cherry-picking data and vastly overstating the public health benefits. As Drs. Julie Goodman and Sonja Sax pointed out in a piece for the Wall Street Journal, “the overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates lowering the current ozone standard will not provide added health benefits beyond those achieved with the current standard.”
The economic pain caused by the EPA’s ozone rule will be especially hard on minority communities. Minority leaders like State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed in St. Louis and Gary, Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson point out the economic hardship the regulation will create for “low-income, urban families.” Mayor Freeman-Wilson said the rule “presents a clear threat to jobs under the newer standard.”
Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce told Congress, “Lowering the ozone standard, particularly to the levels suggested by EPA, will almost certainly cause economic harm to the [NBCC] members and will shut off huge parts of the country from economic development and job growth.”
Unfortunately, the EPA’s ozone rule is just one in a series of new air regulations with eye-popping price tags. Rules limiting ozone, carbon dioxide, and mercury could cost the economy more than a trillion dollars—having a major negative impact on job creation. In its quixotic quest to wring the last few molecules of emissions out of the atmosphere, unelected bureaucrats at EPA have succeeded in becoming the country’s number one job killer.
Alfredo Ortiz is President and CEO of Job Creators Network