The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

EPA Fumbles On Unneeded Ozone Regs

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 2, 2015

A number of Americans may look at some of the mixed reaction to the Obama administration’s release of new, more restrictive ozone standards and conclude that if industry and business groups and environmental activists all are unhappy with the final standards, then the administration must be congratulated for splitting the difference.

As measured as that sounds, it’s simply the wrong approach for setting air quality policy – and lots of Americans are likely to be caught up in the impacts.

As noted in this post, changing national ozone standards from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb could impact job growth in nearly one-third of the country’s counties or county equivalents, according to an API analysis of EPA data. Instead of 217 counties out of compliance with ozone standards, 958 could be in violation and potentially subject to constraints that could affect business expansion, infrastructure development, transportation projects and other activities in those localities. Shorter: These impacts could be coming to a neighborhood near you – affecting economic growth and job creation:

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Areas in red are rural counties or counties within a metro area that have at least one monitor that now violates a 70 ppb standard. The orange areas don’t have monitors, but because there are violating monitors nearby it’s reasonable to conclude that those areas could likely violate a 70 ppb standard.

Noteworthy is the number of population centers across the country that could be impacted. As noted in the previous ozone post, more restrictive ozone standards will hit a lot of Americans where they live – and work.

And again, the administration is moving to a stricter standard even though ozone levels are dropping under the current standards. According to EPA, ozone levels declined 18 percent from 2000 to 2014 – evidence that the 75 ppb standards are helping make the air cleaner and would continue working if the administration left them undisturbed. Basically, EPA set out to fix something that wasn’t broken.

Now, with economic analysis by NERA warning that stricter standards could put millions of jobs at risk and potentially cost the economy billions – with little to no public health benefit – splitting the difference on ozone standards is no way to lead on air quality policy. Leadership is taking an objective look at the potential costs of a regulation, the potential benefits and the underlying science – and making a decision that’s best for America. Period. That has not happened with the more restrictive ozone standards the Obama administration just announced. The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

The final rule is wholly discretionary, and none other than President Obama overruled the EPA on ozone in 2011 in the name of “reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty.” But that was headed into an election year, and Mr. Obama is making amends to burnish his eco-legacy.

Congress should take action, show leadership, by saying no to this regulatory overreach. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

“Our nation’s air is getting cleaner as we implement the existing standards, but the administration ignored science by changing the standards before allowing current standards to work. It’s time for Congress to step in and block this unnecessary and costly regulation to protect American consumers.”

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.