The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

EPA’s Costly, Unnecessary Soot Proposal

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 15, 2012

EPA continues to act tone deaf to the real-world needs of U.S. businesses and regular Americans. Its particle standards proposal issued this week is a good example of the kind of investment-squelching overregulation that ultimately could hurt the country’s energy future.

With the country’s air continuing to improve under the existing fine-particle soot standard, EPA proposed tightening it. The rule is scheduled to be finalized in December. Howard Feldman, API’s directory of regulatory and scientific affairs, says the rule’s benefits aren’t worth its costs:

“Air quality will continue to improve dramatically under the current government standards, but EPA’s proposal could substantially increase costs to states, municipalities, businesses and ultimately consumers without justified benefits. We are concerned that it could come at a significant economic cost and lost investments and limit our ability to produce the energy our nation needs.”

Between 2000 and 2010 concentrations of fine-particle soot fell by 27 percent, according to EPA. Feldman says three-fourths of Americans today live in areas where air quality meets today’s standards, and that the trend will continue – which suggests the new standard is unnecessary.

Feldman also says EPA based its proposal on “faulty scientific analysis,” that important data have been ignored and some of its purported findings are actually misinterpretations. How tightly the standards are set is a policy judgment. Because there is no bright line to guide the standard setting, the impacts of the standards matter. Feldman:

“A more stringent rule will discourage economic investment in counties that fail to meet new federal standards.  It’s in our interest to have both clean air and a vibrant domestic economy. However, the new standards would put many regions out of attainment, and companies considering a place to build a plant or refinery could perceive non-attainment as non-investment.”

Again, in the context of an economy trying to regain its footing, EPA is tossing out banana peels – with potential costs on a number of fronts that ultimately will hit real people. This economic anti-stimulus also is an unnecessary energy impediment.

It illustrates why, if we’re serious about a secure energy future, a common-sense regulatory structure is needed. By that we mean a regulatory process that’s open to all and based on sound science and legitimate cost-benefit analysis. By that standard EPA’s proposal falls well short.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.