The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Ozone Regulation and the Nation’s Economic Health

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 19, 2014

A couple of data points to remember with EPA poised to propose new, lower ground-level ozone standards, perhaps as soon as next month:

  • Air quality is and has been improving under the current, 75 parts per billion (ppb) standards, which are still being implemented across the country.
  • EPA reports national average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980 and 18 percent since 2000.

ozone 

Against that backdrop, EPA staff reportedly is recommending a new primary ozone standard of between 60 and 70 ppb, which could put 94 percent of the country out of compliance – potentially stunting job creation and economic growth for little, if any, health benefit.

We’ve posted these maps before – the first showing areas of the country out of compliance with the current 75 ppb standard:

75 ppb

And this one showing how much of the country would be out of compliance with a 60 ppb standard:

ozone_60ppb

Howard Feldman, API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs, talked about the pending new standards earlier this year:

“We recognize that EPA has a statutory duty to periodically review the standards. However, the current review of health studies has not identified compelling evidence for more stringent standards. Tightened standards could impose unachievable emission reduction requirements on virtually every part of the nation, including rural and undeveloped areas. These could be the costliest EPA regulations ever.”

A study released this summer by the National Association of Manufacturers estimated that more stringent ozone standards could reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year from 2017 to 2040, result in 2.9 million fewer job equivalents on average through 2040 and impose a cost to the average U.S. household of $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption. (Click here for a state-by-state look at the potential impacts.)

During a conference call with reporters, Feldman noted that earlier EPA analyses acknowledge the technology needed to achieve more stringent standards doesn’t exist, and that a stricter standard isn’t justified from a health perspective. Feldman:

“… we don’t know how to get to these levels. These levels are levels that are at or below peak background. Background levels at Yellowstone National Park are 66 parts per billion, background. … Background at pristine locations is 65, 66, 67 (ppb). It means we have very little ability for our society to operate the way it normally does. … Our society does have some emissions, but that is the cost and benefit of our modern society, where we’re able to have the amenities and the social life that we like. So there is some impact on the environment. We’re talking about reducing that (head)room to almost zero.”

The point here, as EPA nears its decision, is that air quality is improving under the existing standards, largely because of cleaner fuels and facilities. EPA’s own data confirms it. Stricter standards, lacking clear health justifications, could severely damage the economy while reducing opportunity for individual Americans.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.