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The New York Times today ran its second editorial scolding the Obama Administration for its decision to delay a tightening of ozone standards in response to a lengthy article by John Broder who exhaustively detailed the big players in this decision and their thought processes. Though there are critiques of the science behind the evidence of harm from ozone concentrations of ~75 parts per billion, I’d like to focus on an outcome of the ozone tightening that the NYT implies is nothing but an industry talking point:

This page was not impressed by those arguments then and is no less skeptical of them now in light of John M. Broder’s exhaustive account in The Times on Thursday of the steps that led up to the decision. The article paints a picture of an aggressive campaign by industry lobbyists and heavyweight trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute that began soon after it became clear that Ms. Jackson was determined to tighten the rules governing allowable ozone levels across the country.

The standards governing ozone — the main component of harmful smog — are supposed to be set every five years. But because the standards proposed by the Bush administration in 2008 were seen as inadequate by the scientific community and had been challenged in court, Ms. Jackson decided to set her own standards, tough but achievable. Their health benefits would approximate their costs, and they would not begin to bite for several years, giving industry time to prepare. [click to continue…]

The Environmental Protection Agency sprang two surprises last week. First, EPA asked a federal judge to allow them to delay issuing the boiler MACT (Maximum Available Control Technology) rule until April 2012, which would give EPA time to reconsider and rewrite the proposed regulation.  The rule is designed to cut air pollution from approximately 200,000 industrial boilers, process heaters, solid waste incinerators, etc.  Industrial users of boilers have made a good case that the proposed standards were going to be impossible to meet in many cases.

Next, EPA announced that the ozone or smog rule would be delayed until July 2011, while it reconsidered the scientific and health studies on smog’s effects.  The announcement suggests that EPA has bowed to intense opposition from Congress, state and local governments, and industry and is now going to re-write the smog rule so that it is less economically catastrophic.  EPA nonetheless is going ahead with regulating greenhouse gas emissions from major stationary sources on January 1, 2011.  There is little reason to think that those regulations are any less damaging than the smog rule.

The EPA also announced last week that it was holding its second National Bed Bug Summit meeting in early February. You may laugh, but at least with bed bugs EPA is addressing a real environmental health problem.

A recent study by the Manufacturer’s Alliance/MAPI finds that EPA’s proposed revision of the “primary” (health-based) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone would have devastating economic impacts, such as:

  • Impose $1 trillion in annual compliance burdens on the economy between 2020 and 2030.
  • Reduce GDP by $687 billion in 2020 (3.5% below the baseline projection).
  • Reduce employment by 7.3 million jobs in 2020 (a figure equal to 4.3% of the projected labor force in 2020).

In a companion report, the Senate Republican Policy Committee estimates the job losses and  “energy tax” burden (compliance cost + GDP reduction) each State will incur if EPA picks the most stringent ozone standard it is considering.

The costs of tightening ozone standards are likely to overwhelm the benefits, if any, as Joel Schwartz and Steven Hayward explain in chapter 7 of their book, Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks

So let’s see — we have emission regulations that function as de-facto energy taxes, and the costs far outweigh the putative benefits. Sound familiar? The resemblance to Waxman-Markey is more than superficial, because if stringent enough, air pollution regulations can restrict fossil energy use no less than carbon taxes or greenhouse cap-and-trade schemes.

For more information on EPA’s proposed ozone NAAQS and the MAPI study, see my post today on CEI’s Open Market.Org.