Recent Op-Eds

When I think of the Great Plains, I think of rolling hills and sprawling farmland—open spaces stretched between scattered towns. South Dakota is blessed with an abundance of space and fresh air, both of which are critical for our agriculture and hunting industries. But a rule proposed by the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricting air quality standards is so strict that even the expansive prairies of the Midwest and the untouched beauty of national parks like Yellowstone may be considered too polluted.

The proposal has to do with ground-level ozone—or what we usually refer to as smog. What the EPA has proposed doing is lowering the smog standard from the current level set in 2008, which is 75 parts-per-billion, to anywhere between 70 and 65. The new Obama EPA smog regulations would impose heavy-handed, costly new requirements in the open plains of South Dakota before first ensuring that we address smog problems in urban areas, such as Los Angeles, where smog remains a consistent problem.

Just to give you a little background, in 2010, the Obama administration put forward a similar proposal to lower the standard, but later withdrew it because of the burdens and uncertainty it would impose. One reason this is such an aggressive standard is that currently, 277 counties in 27 states can’t even meet the current standard. When these counties are considered in “non-attainment” they are expected to implement expensive plans to reach compliance.

Just to give you an idea of the cost of this regulation, research from the National Association of Manufacturers indicates that the EPA’s proposal could lead to 1.4 million fewer jobs per year and reduce annual Gross Domestic Product by $140 billion. According to the EPA’s own estimate, this regulation is one of the most expensive in the agency’s history.

Such staggering costs is why on March 17, Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and I introduced a bill to block the EPA from implementing what is expected to be the most costly regulation in the EPA’s history. The bill I introduced 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.

In South Dakota alone, a lower standard would cost jobs in manufacturing, natural resources and mining, and construction, and severely cut household spending by over $1200 per year. Costs for the typical South Dakota family could include expensive annual vehicle emission tests and higher energy costs.

This issue 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 with air quality attainment standards. My bill takes a sensible stand against this aggressive EPA and puts American jobs and communities first.