Strict EPA ozone pro­posal draws fire as a busi­ness killer

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TIM DE­VANEY

Man­u­fac­tur­ers are fight­ing to stop a new En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency plan to curb ozone that they say would de­liver a dev­as­tat­ing blow to the econ­omy and job growth by cre­at­ing tougher pol­lu­tion laws.

The EPA wants to cut the na­tional am­bi­ent air-qual­ity stan­dard to be­tween 60 and 70 parts per bil­lion, which would push thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ties over the cur­rent limit of 75 ppb. That, in turn, would make it more dif­fi­cult to at­tract new busi­ness.

“Is this re­ally an­other un­cer­tainty you want to throw at the busi­ness com­mu­nity right now?” asked Ross Eisen­berg, the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce’s en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy coun­sel. “It just doesn’t make much sense.”

Busi­ness lead­ers from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac- tur­ers, Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute, Amer­i­can Chem­istry Coun­cil and Busi­ness Roundtable held a press con­fer­ence on July 19 to at­tack the EPA’s plan. The Busi­ness Roundtable sent a letter to the White House last week, warn­ing this could stall the re­cov­ery.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups, how­ever, say low­er­ing the limit is vi­tal to the pop­u­la­tion’s health, and call this a “last-ditch ef­fort” by busi­ness groups and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans to “side­track the de­ci­sion.”

The EPA sent its pro­posal to the White House two weeks ago. The fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made by the end of the month.

“Upon my con­fir­ma­tion as EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor, I had to choose be­tween de­fend­ing the Bush-era ozone stan­dard in court or agree­ing to re­con­sider the 2008 des­ig­na­tion,” wrote Lisa P. Jack­son, who was ap­pointed by the Obama ad­mi­nis- tra­tion to run the EPA. “I de­cided that re­con­sid­er­a­tion was the ap­pro­pri­ate path.”

The busi­ness lead­ers want the EPA to the stick to the tra­di­tional five-year re­view cy­cle. The next for­mal re­view is sched­uled for 2013, but en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say the move can’t wait two more years.

“The new EPA is just clean­ing up the mess that it in­her­ited,” said Frank O’Don­nell, pres­i­dent of Clean Air Watch. The old one was send­ing a “false sig­nal from the gov­ern­ment about what con­sti­tutes dirty air.”

He said the health ef­fects are rea­son enough to make the switch. When the level is too high, like it is now, it in­creases the level of smog in the en­vi­ron­ment, he said, and that has a neg­a­tive af­fect on chil­dren and se­nior cit­i­zens. If it’s not fixed, “lit­er­ally thou­sands of peo­ple would die pre­ma­turely each year,” he said.

But busi­ness groups say the EPA at that time was sim­ply try­ing to find a bal­ance when they set the limit at 75 ppb, be­cause it pre­vi­ously was set at 84 ppb.

Now, Mr. Eisen­berg said, he is hear­ing the stan­dard will be set around 65 ppb. “Any­thing in that range would be too low,” he said. It would even force re­spected na­tional parks like Yel­low­stone and the Grand Canyon out of com­pli­ance.

Com­mu­ni­ties that fail to drop within the limit will be hit with fines and forced to place re­stric­tions on busi­nesses. One of the big­gest re­stric­tions will be a rule that they have to tear down one or more build­ings be­fore they can build a new one.

“So you wind up scal­ing down,” Mr. Eisen­berg said. “You’re hav­ing less busi­ness at that point. You’re tak­ing more away than you’re adding.”

Other penal­ties in­clude the fed­eral gov­ern­ment with­hold­ing high­way and transit fund­ing, and greater over­sight when it comes to per­mit de­ci­sions.

So, nat­u­rally, com­pa­nies will be­gin to lo­cate in at­tain­ment ar­eas that do not face these same re­stric­tions. But, with the new stan­dards, those ar­eas are shrink­ing. Even­tu­ally, this could force busi­nesses out of the coun­try.

“Any time they lower the stan­dard, it’s go­ing to put some coun­ties in non-at­tain­ment,” Mr. Eisen­berg said. “But low­er­ing it this much would put large por­tions of the nation into non-at­tain­ment. That’s re­ally when the pain starts.

“Then, the op­tion doesn’t just be­come, ‘I’m go­ing to move some­where else in the state.’ It be­comes, ‘I’m go­ing to move out of the coun­try.’ And that will cause ma­jor eco­nomic de­struc­tion,” he added.

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