Recent Op-Eds

Since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog, in urban areas across the country. Forty years later, big cities still struggle to meet the EPA’s smog standards, yet President Obama wants to expand these expensive regulations to rural states like South Dakota. South Dakotans are fortunate to enjoy clean air, and our communities should not be subject to the same federal regulations meant to address smog in places like Los Angeles. That’s why on September 17th, I led a group of my colleagues in introducing a bill to block what is expected to be the mostly costly regulation in the EPA’s history.

In 2010, the EPA put forward a proposal to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone from the current 75 parts-per-billion to a range of 60 to 70 parts-per-billion. The problem with the proposal is that currently 221 counties in 27 states can’t even meet the current standard, and when counties are considered in “non-attainment” they must implement expensive plans to reach compliance. The EPA should first focus on getting problem areas like Los Angeles and New York in attainment before expanding costly smog regulations to rural states such as South Dakota or many of our national parks.

Just to give you an idea of the cost of this regulation, research from the National Association of Manufacturers indicates the new standard could lead to 2.9 million fewer jobs and reduce annual economic growth by $270 billion. In South Dakota alone, a lower NAAQS standard would lead to 6,500 fewer jobs per year, increase household electricity and gas prices for South Dakotans, and impose nearly $1 billion in compliance costs across the state. Even the White House understood just how expensive this new regulation would be and delayed these regulations until after the president’s reelection. The EPA is now expected to once again propose lowering ground-level ozone standards by December of this year.

My bill would block the EPA from lowering the air quality standards until 85 percent of the counties currently in non-attainment achieve compliance with the existing standard. My bill would also require the EPA to consider the costs and feasibility of the lower standard, which the EPA currently does not consider, and would prohibit the EPA from using controversial modeling to expand these regulations to rural areas.

This is yet another example of just how out of touch the Obama EPA is with the American people. Rather than strangle American industry with a job-killing regulation that could slash economic growth and raise energy prices for American families, the Obama EPA needs to focus its efforts on areas already struggling to meet air quality standards. My bill takes a sensible stand against this aggressive EPA and puts South Dakota jobs and communities first.