U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today introduced an amendment to the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014 (S. 2262), to block an anticipated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to expand National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, which would cost upward of $1 trillion per year from 2020 to 2030, making it the most expensive regulation in the EPA’s history.
“The Obama EPA will soon propose unrealistic new ground-level ozone standards that will cost employers upward of $1 trillion and eliminate millions of good-paying jobs,” said Thune. “These standards would have devastating impacts in South Dakota, costing the state tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, natural resources and mining, and construction. My amendment would prevent the federal government from placing unrealistic, burdensome, and expensive new standards on job creators and rural communities.”
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 parts per billion (ppb) to the current 75 ppb. Counties are required to reduce levels of pollutants such as smog, particulates, or carbon monoxide in their area in order to comply with the NAAQS regulations.
Counties that exceed the ground-level ozone standard are considered non-attainment areas and must implement expensive plans to reach compliance. Currently, 221 counties in 27 states are considered in non-attainment with the current 75 ppb standard. Despite the ongoing problems many counties have had achieving the 75 ppb standard, the Obama EPA has previously put forward proposals to lower emissions levels in the range of 60 ppb to 70 ppb.
According to the EPA’s own estimates, the costs of this proposal ranged from $25 billion per year at 70 ppb to $90 billion per year at 60 ppb. Industry estimates indicate that the 60 ppb standard would cost businesses over $1 trillion per year between 2020 and 2030. Job losses as a result of this measure would total a staggering 7.3 million by 2020, devastating entire industries and hitting U.S. manufacturing especially hard. This would have a tremendous impact on rural areas, which depend on coal as an affordable and reliable source of energy production.
Thune’s amendment would block the EPA from lowering the NAAQS below 75 ppb until 85 percent of the non-attainment counties achieve compliance with the existing standard. Thune’s amendment would also require the EPA to consider the costs and feasibility of the lower standard, which the EPA currently cannot consider. Thune’s amendment is cosponsored by Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana).
Thune has also introduced a number of other amendments to S. 2262, which he previously offered during the Senate’s consideration of the legislation in September of 2013. A full list and description of these amendments is available here.