The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Progress on Ozone – Without Stifling the Economy

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 25, 2014

Experts believe EPA soon will issue its proposal for the five-year review of Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, perhaps as early as this week. Some important points to consider as the agency prepares what could be the costliest regulation ever imposed on Americans:

First, our air is getting cleaner under the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) standards set in 2008. EPA reports that national average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980 – including 18 percent since 2000. EPA’s chart:

ozone

States have just begun implementing the 75 ppb standards, for which EPA’s implementation guidance has yet to be released. With EPA considering lowering the standards to 60 ppb even before the current standards are fully in force, there’s great risk of disruption to the current plans already under way by the states.

Second, more stringent standards could seriously hamstring our still-recovering economy. A study for the National Association of Manufacturers by NERA Economic Consulting estimated U.S. GDP could be reduced by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040, potentially costing millions of jobs, increasing average household costs and pushing costs for natural gas and electricity higher.

Third, the current review of health studies hasn’t identified compelling evidence of a need for stricter standards.

Recapping, EPA may impose more stringent ozone standards without good health reasons to do so, though ozone levels are falling under current standards that are still being implemented – potentially giving the economy one huge punch in the gut.

Howard Feldman, API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs, talked about EPA proposal during a conference call with reporters. Feldman said API wants EPA to include 75 ppb in the range it considers for a new rule. Feldman:

“It’s important to remember that air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades, and air quality will continue to improve under the existing standards. … We should let states finish implementing the current standards before we start proposing new ones. … Tightened standards would impose unachievable emission reduction requirements on virtually every part of the nation, including rural and undeveloped areas.”

We’ve posted the map below before, but it graphically illustrates the sweep of standards set at 60 ppb: 94 percent of the U.S. population would live in places deemed out of compliance.

ozone

Feldman said virtually every state could have non-attainment areas that could mean new restrictions on businesses of all sizes and additional state and local bureaucracy:

“… those areas would be subject to new or additional emission reductions requirements. … With new standards that approach or are even lower than peak naturally occurring levels, virtually any human activity that produced emissions could ultimately be restricted or affected. In some cases, new development simply would not be feasible or permitted. Even pristine areas with no industrial activity such as national parks would be out of attainment. Needless to say, operating under such stringent requirements could stifle new investment necessary to create jobs and grow our economy.”

One last point: The controls and technology required to lower emissions to 60 ppb don’t exist, Feldman said, and EPA hasn’t yet offered up a plan for meeting the lower standards. Feldman:

“Our industry operates under extensive rules that, along with the industry’s own best practices and standards, have enabled it to steadily improve safety and reduce environmental impacts. Our fuels are much cleaner today, and so are our facilities. Indeed, that’s a primary reason why so much national progress has been made over the decades improving air quality. EPA emissions data confirm this. We can build on this progress without going to stricter and potentially very damaging standards that EPA may soon propose.”

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.