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Tougher ozone standards could snuff out the recovery, businesses warn

EPA Tightens Air Pollution Limits For First Time In A DecadeEPA Tightens Air Pollution Limits For First Time In A Decade
Traffic moves along a freeway in Los Angeles, Calif.Photograph by David McNew — Getty Images

The business community is ramping up its opposition to tighter ozone standards proposed by the Obama administration, warning that these efforts would be devastating to the economy.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released a study Thursday which concludes that revising the standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) down to 65 ppb would reduce the nation’s GDP by $140 billion annually and $1.7 trillion from 2017 to 2040. It would also cost businesses $1.1 trillion to comply with the new regulations, the group argues.

“The administration’s push for a more restrictive ozone standard is yet another painful example of the need for comprehensive regulatory reform,” NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse said.

“Further tightening of an existing standard that so many parts of our nation still can’t meet creates an undue strain on our economic recovery,” he added. “Rather than adding to the regulatory pains already felt so acutely by our nation’s manufacturing sector, the administration should focus on allowing existing standards to be fully implemented.”

The study, conducted by National Economic Research Associates Economic Consulting and commissioned by NAM, also has business leaders fearing the tougher standards could snuff out a nascent economic recovery.

The study argues the new standards would result in 1.4 million fewer jobs per year on average through 2040. For groups such as NAM, that is reason to keep the current regulations in place.

“Manufacturers in the United States are in the midst of a resurgence that’s fueling job growth and economic recovery nationwide, but the proposed tightening of the ozone standard puts our momentum at great risk,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said. “This data confirm our long-held concern that revisions to the ozone standard represent one of the most significant threats, not just to our manufacturing sector, but to our economy at large.”

While the study focuses on the economic cost, it never mentions the health benefits from enacting the new standards, which would range from 65 ppb to 70 ppb. The tougher measures have the support of groups such as the American Lung Association and are aimed at protecting Americans from such diseases as lung cancer, or asthma.

When it announced the tougher standards in November, the Environmental Protection Agency promoted the health benefits while insisting they will do little to hurt the economy — noting that tougher air quality standards since 1970 have cut air pollution by 70 percent while the economy has more than tripled.

A new standard ranging from 65 ppb to 70 ppb, it concluded, would bring health benefits to adults and children ranging from $6.4 billion to $13 billion while the 65 ppb standards would result in upwards of $38 billion in benefits. It also found that the reducing the standards nationwide excluding California would avoid upwards of 4,300 premature deaths by 2025, 180,000 missed work days and nearly a million asthma attacks in children.

It also found the cost were much less than the projections floated by the business groups: only be $3.9 billion for the 70 ppb standard, and $15 billion for the 65 ppb standard.

The EPA is in the midst of seeking public comment on the standards and will issue a final ruling on ozone standards by Oct. 1.