U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today denounced the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of a final rule to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, or smog. The new standard would be set at an unprecedented 70 parts-per-billion (ppb), down from the 75 ppb standard set in 2008, and is projected to increase energy prices, curb job growth, and hinder economic development.
“Time and time again, this administration has shown complete disregard for American workers and their families. The stricter smog standard – previously estimated to be the most expensive EPA regulation in history – will have widespread implications, raising energy prices and stunting economic growth and opportunity across the country.” said Thune. “At a time when our economy needs relief from regulatory overreach, the Obama EPA has once again dealt a devastating blow to job creators and hard-working Americans.”
Counties that exceed the ground-level ozone standard are considered non-attainment areas and will be subjected to stiff federal penalties, increased business costs, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and lost highway dollars. Areas in marginal attainment will face steep challenges in attracting new economic development.
On March 17, 2015, Thune and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced the bipartisan Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act (S. 751), which 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 ground-level ozone 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 many rural counties that otherwise would not be impacted by the expensive regulation.
In 2008, the permitted level of ground-level ozone or smog was lowered from 84 ppb to the current 75 ppb. Currently, 227 counties in 27 states are considered in non-attainment with the 75 ppb standard. The CASE Act would require 85 percent of areas currently not meeting the 75 ppb standard to meet compliance before the EPA could lower it further.