New ozone rules could be most expensive regulations ever

The EPA's newly proposed ozone regulations, reducing ground-level ozone to 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), could cost $140 billion and put 1.4 million American jobs at risk every year.

Under the current standard of 75 ppb, 217 counties in America are "measured or projected to be out of attainment or in metroploitan areas that do not meet standards."  If the EPA lowers the standard to 70 ppb, the number of non-attainment counties would jump to 958, a 4-fold increase that includes areas with no industrial activity such as national parks.  

-- How could the proposed ozone regulations affect the states --


Despite that, the EPA is now proposing a further tightening of the NAAQS for ground-level ozone.  This time to within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb).  


What Are Ozone Regulations?
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is instructed to select a primary NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) for ground-level ozone to ensure an “adequate margin of safety” for the nation’s general health.

In March 2008, the EPA lowered the primary NAAQS for ground-level ozone from 84 ppb (parts per billion) to 75 ppb.  That standard is still being implemented and air quality is improving.    

This new standard policy comes even though emission are as low as they have been in decades.  Air quality continues to approve, and the current standard of 75 ppb — the most stringent standard ever — has not even been fully implemented yet.  Therefore, EPA should abandon plans to revise and tighten the NAAQS for ground-level ozone.


Who would new ozone regulations affect?

"It's not just manufacturers who will bear this burden, Americans across the country will feel the costs of this expensive, new regulation."  Jay Timmons, President and CEO of National Association of Manufacturers.

After the EPA establishes an NAAQS, it is the responsibility of each individual state to ensure that all counties and metropolitan areas in that state are in compliance with the standard. Areas that are above the standard (not in compliance with the NAAQS) are referred to as “nonattainment” areas.

Areas below the standard (in compliance with the NAAQS) are referred to as “attainment” areas. While states have some flexibility in implementing regulations and other programs to meet the NAAQS for ground-level ozone, there are other federally mandated programs that states must adhere to if an area in the state is in nonattainment.

The consequences for nonattainment are severe and can include a loss of industry and economic development resulting from increased costs, delays and uncertainties from restrictive permitting requirements; loss of federal highway and transit funding; requirements that any new emissions in the area be offset or the facility cannot be built; and technical and formula changes for commercial and consumer products.


What is Ozone
Ozone is a form of oxygen, the molecule contains three oxygen atoms and has the same chemical structure whether it is found high in the atmosphere or at ground-level. Ozone is unstable and will readily combine with other atoms.

High in the atmosphere "stratosphere ozone" is present, and protects against ultraviolet radiation. In contrast to the "good" ozone in the stratosphere, ozone can present a problem at certain concentrations at ground-level. It is generated both from certain types of pollution and natural sources, including when atmospheric conditions cause stratospheric ozone down toward the earth's surface. 

Ground-level ozone is formed from the combustion of fuel from cars, power plants and other industrial plants, as well as non-manmade sources like plants, forest fires.  It is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.  Government agencies place air quality monitors around the state to measure ozone levels which are measured in “parts per billion” (ppb).


How would each state be affected?
Tightening ozone standards could increase costs to the American public, reduce America’s ability to compete internationally, and threaten American jobs.

The nation’s air quality has improved over the past several years, and ozone emissions will continue to decline without new regulations. These new standards are not justified from a health perspective; the science is simply not showing a need to reduce ozone levels.

See how individual states might be affected by lower ozone standards


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