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Thune, Manchin Introduce Bill to Block Expensive EPA Regulation that Hinders Economic Opportunities

Bill would stem the staggering economic harm caused by lowering the ground-level ozone standard

March 17, 2015

Washington, D.C. — 

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) today introduced a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing costly regulations that would increase energy prices, curb job growth, and hinder economic opportunities by setting the ground-level ozone standard at an unprecedented low level. Thune and Manchin’s bill, The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act, would stem the economic harm from a lower ozone standard by requiring the EPA to focus on the worst areas for air quality before lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone across the country.

“Lowering the ground-level ozone standard would be a staggering blow to our economy,” said Thune. “The Obama EPA needs to focus its efforts on areas already struggling with attainment, not strangle American industry with a job-killing regulation that could slash our GDP by $1.7 trillion through 2040 and destroy 1.4 million jobs per year. In South Dakota alone, a lower standard would cost thousands of jobs in manufacturing, mining, and construction, and severely cut household spending by over $1,200 per year. Our bill takes a sensible stand against this aggressive EPA and puts American jobs and communities first.”

“I’ve always said we need to strike a balance between the environment and the economy, which is what this bill does,” Manchin said. “Placing new, costly regulations on states when they have not had sufficient time to comply with the existing standards is unfair. Lowering the ozone standard would cost states billions of dollars and thousands of good-paying jobs. We need the EPA and our federal government to work with us as allies, not as adversaries who continually implement onerous regulations and move the goalposts before we even have a chance to comply.”

NAAQS are outdoor air quality standards that measure the concentration of six main pollutants. In 2008, the permitted level of ground-level ozone or smog was lowered from 84 ppb to the current 75 ppb. Counties that exceed the ground-level ozone standard are considered non-attainment areas and must implement expensive plans to reach compliance.

On November 25, 2014, the EPA proposed lowering the ozone NAAQS from the current standard of 75 parts-per-billion (ppb) to within the range of 70-65 ppb. Currently, 227 counties in 27 states are considered in non-attainment with the current 75 ppb standard. The CASE Act would require 85 percent of areas currently not meeting the existing 75 ppb standard to meet compliance before the EPA could lower it further.

In addition to prohibiting the EPA from lowering the NAAQS below 75 ppb until 85 percent of the current non-attainment counties achieve compliance with the existing standard, Thune and Manchin’s bill would also require the EPA to consider the costs and feasibility of the lower standard, which the EPA currently does not consider. ­­Finally, the bill would prohibit the EPA from using unreliable modeling to expand non-attainment areas to hundreds of rural counties that otherwise would not be impacted by the expensive regulation.

EPA: Areas in Non-attainment Under the Current Standard

According to the EPA’s own estimate when it proposed a similar standard in 2010, the costs of the proposal were estimated to reach up to $90 billion per year. Industry estimates indicate that a 65 ppb standard would lead to 1.4 million fewer jobs per year, reduce annual GDP by $140 billion, and shut down approximately one-third of all coal-fired power plant capacity. This would have a tremendous impact on rural areas, which depend on coal as an affordable and reliable source of energy production. A National Association of Manufacturers report details the heavy cost of compliance in South Dakota, West Virginia, and other impacted states.

NAM: Areas in Non-attainment Under the Projected 65 ppb Standard

Red Areas = Direct Air Monitoring
Orange Areas = EPA’s Expanded Modeling Methodology 


Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.