California Gov. Jerry Brown is joining the heads of four other states in asking the EPA to tighten U.S. smog standards — a regulation that could be the costliest in history. It is a bold move given the that California would be exempt from stricter smog regulations.
In their letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, the Democratic governors called the EPA’s current smog, or ozone, standard “inadequate” and that “the health and environmental benefits associated with cleaner air continue to outweigh the costs of achieving those standards.”
The EPA has proposed lowering the current ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to between 70 and 65 parts per billion. The agency has also asked for input on an even lower standard, at 60 parts per million.
Environmentalists have cheered the lower standard, saying it’s necessary to protecting public health. Gov. Brown is among those supportive of lowering the current standard. But of course, Brown’s support leaves out the fact that California would not be affected by more stringent rules.
The EPA has already given California until 2025 to meet the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, and the agency has essentially exempted the state from complying with a tighter ozone standard until sometime between 2032 and 2037.
Regulators say that ozone travelling from Asia makes it harder for the state to comply with the current standard. Indeed, the head of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District warned that “it’s no longer an exaggeration that getting to even 75 ppb is total economic devastation in the timeline that’s proposed,” according to E&E News.
“The agency will continue these collaborative efforts for any revised ozone standards, including working with California as it continues to explore regulatory strategies and technologies to reduce pollution and improve public health protection,” the EPA said on the release of its ozone rule last year. “California has faced a uniquely difficult attainment task due to the combination of adverse meteorology and topography, population growth, and the pollution burden associated with mobile sources.”
Every other state in the country, however, is going to be forced to comply with the stricter ozone standards. Many areas of the country had trouble complying with the 2008 standard because of industrial production or even naturally-occurring ozone.
The National Association of Manufacturers claims a lower ozone standard could end up being the most expensive regulation in history. A NAM-backed study found tightened ozone standards would cost $1.7 trillion by 2040 and mean 1.4 million fewer jobs.
The high costs are because much of the country is projected to be out of compliance with a lower smog standard. Even many state and national parks would be considered out of compliance with tighter ozone rules
Republican lawmakers have launched a legislative effort to derail the EPA’s ozone rule, saying it would be costly and allow the federal government to further extend its regulatory reach.
“Our nation has made great strides in cleaning up the air we breathe,” wrote Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Thune of South Dakota. “Air-pollution levels are at an all-time low. But 40 percent of Americans currently live in areas that haven’t met the current ozone standard. By lowering the standard to 65 [parts per billion], EPA would then place 67 percent of U.S. land in nonattainment.”
“Many of these areas, like Yellowstone National Park or high-elevation communities, have high levels of naturally occurring ozone, making them unable to comply with a lower standard,” Republicans warned.
The EPA, however, argues a tightened ozone standard would result in fewer deaths, asthma attacks and up to $38 billion in monetized public health benefits. The agency says the benefits could be higher by 2025 once California starts to come into compliance with the rule.
This report, by Michael Bastasch, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.