New Ozone Rules So Over-the-Top, Even National Parks Can’t Comply
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released an ad today highlighting just how onerous and unworkable the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to tighten the ozone standard will be. As the ad demonstrates, not even our pristine national parks can comply with the tightened ozone standard – so how much more difficult will it be for cities and towns with job sustaining industries?
Meeting the tightened ozone standard is particularly concerning for the many areas across the United States that have background levels of ozone, which have little to do with the industries or farms operating in their areas.
Air pollution in national parks is more often caused by naturally occurring phenomena such as stratospheric intrusions and wildfires, as well as pollutants migrating from countries with a heavy manufacturing base and limited regulation, such as China. As the Western States Air Resources Council, a group that represents environmental regulators from 15 states, recently explained in a letter to the EPA, “Background levels of ozone in remote locations, including many intermountain national parks, are consistently above the [National Air Ambient Quality Standards] NAAQS proposed by EPA.”
For example, Colorado’s top air quality regulator noted in an interview that “very high background levels … make the issue particularly challenging in the West.” A California air quality official from the San Joaquin Valley warned “standards that approach background concentrations” require “technologies that in many cases are not yet commercially available or even conceived.” The official said in a letter to the EPA that the federal government is setting “mandates that are impossible to meet.”
Faced with a pretty difficult set of facts to defend, environmental activists have decided to attack the NAM spot by issuing their own report this week, arguing that air quality at National Parks is really quite bad, all due to manufacturing and oil and gas development. The problem? The report actually contradicts itself on that point numerous times throughout the text, at one point actually declaring that “[t]oday there is less pollution, clearer skies, and healthier air in our national parks than at any other point in the four decades since the Clean Air Act was enacted.” Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, all that clean air progress couldn’t save most of the parks from earning a “D” or “F” grade on air quality from the advocacy group.
EPA is considering a proposal to tighten its regulations for the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range between 70 ppb to 65 ppb. EPA is going ahead with this plan even though large portions of the country have yet to meet the agency’s current standard, and despite the fact that states and counties are making great strides in improving air quality, even without new red tape. If a county doesn’t meet EPA’s standard, it is considered in “non-attainment” and must comply with additional permitting requirements to start a new business, expand an existing one, or drill an oil or gas well, making economic growth exceedingly difficult.
EID recently highlighted the questionable data that EPA used to claim the new rule would deliver significant health benefits. In 2011, when the EPA proposed (and later withdrew) a 70 ppb standard, its median “net benefits” estimate for a 65 ppb standard was only $700 million, with a high possibility that the costs could outweigh any benefits. But in 2014, the EPA changed its mind, claiming net benefits of the same lower ozone standard are now as high as $23 billion – a 3,100 percent increase in net benefits for the exact same standard.