Tighter ozone standards proposed

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Dec. 4, 2014

On the day before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new set of “National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone” (626 pages). All info linked here. EPA is proposing to drop the allowable ozone level to 65- 70 parts per billion (ppb) and will be taking comments on an even tighter standard of 60 ppb.

Currently, 40 percent of the U.S. populationlives in areas that do not meet the standard of 75 ppb. At 65 ppb, more than half of the United States would be out of compliance. For California, the new standard would mean that virtually the entire state is out of compliance and subject to the potential loss of federal transportation funding. Except for a couple of small rural counties, the north coast, Oregon border and two small strips along the central coast, California would be in nonattainment status. See the projection for nonattainment on a map here.

CMTA has argued that it makes more sense to bring America into compliance with the existing 75 ppb standard before tightening the standard further. The National Association of Manufacturers has called this action “the most expensive regulation of all time.” However, EPA writes in the regulation that it’s “task is to establish standards that are neither more nor less stringent than necessary for these purposes. In so doing, the EPA may not consider the costs of implementing the standards.” It is interesting that EPA also released at the same time a 575-page “Regulatory Impact Analysis”, but states that its conclusions were not considered, making it pointless. That cost study shows that the ozone-only benefits are $8.6 billion in 2025, compared with $15 billion in costs. The regulation fails a basic cost-benefit analysis on ozone alone.

Individual states are charged with the mandate to develop and submit to EPA implementation plans designed to meet these standards by 2025. Ignoring this regulation will jeopardize federal transportation funds. States will be forced to impose costs on all businesses. Electricity costs across the country will rise. Permits for construction of new or expanding facilities will be harder to obtain.

It appears that California is in a unique position because of its already high levels of nonattainment. The deadlines for California compliance will be negotiated and are expected to be further out. This means, however, that all of the efforts and expenses to-date are just the beginning. This new standard comes at the same time that many California-only regulations are being imposed that collectively place increased costs, burden and delays on manufacturers, threatening our domestic and international competitiveness and making it difficult to grow high wage jobs.

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