Another major regulatory milestone is pending at EPA. The agency has until December 1, 2014, to decide whether to keep or change current national air quality standards for ozone. In a new study just released in late July, the National Association of Manufacturers argues that a lower standard could end up being the costliest regulation in U.S. history, with an added tab for the U.S. economy of up to $270 billion per year and a total bill of $3.4 trillion over the next 25 years.
According to the NAM study, impacts could include forcing the closure of one-third of the nation’s coal-fired power plants and disastrous consequences for U.S. domestic manufacturing, which is expanding in part due to favorable supplies of affordable energy.
“Manufacturing in the United States is making a comeback, and we’re reducing emissions at the same time, but tightening the current ozone standard to near unachievable levels would serve as a self-inflicted wound to the U.S. economy at the worst possible time,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This rule would undermine our work to expand manufacturing in the United States, making it almost impossible to increase operations, create new jobs or keep pace internationally.”
The NAM Environmental Quality Committee, of which NASF is a member, discussed the implications of the findings of the study at a recent meeting in Washington. The study, conducted by NERA Consulting, assessed the potential consequences of reducing the existing ozone standard from 75 ppb to 60 ppb, as called for by the American Lung Association and other groups. Requiring a reduction from 75 ppb to 60 ppb would leave nearly all of the United States in a so-called “nonattainment zone,” according to NERA, which would “bring an ending the manufacturing boom.”
According to the study, the EPA’s expected proposal to revise the current standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb could:
- Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year;
- Put 2.9 million jobs at risk per year;
- Reduce the average U.S. household’s consumption by $1,570 per year; and
- Increase natural gas and electricity costs for manufacturers and households across the country.
In releasing the new findings, NAM underscores that manufacturers in nonattainment areas would not be able to make investments and expand operations without other businesses reducing their emissions or closing their operations. Meeting a standard of 60 ppb, which is the “top end” of the range of acceptable standards called for by public interest groups, would impact manufacturers of all sizes across every industrial sector.
To better assess the practical impacts of new standards for surface finishing, NASF will be discussing the ozone issue and soliciting further feedback from member companies in upcoming fall chapter meetings of the association across the U.S. In the meantime, for more information about the state-by-state impacts, click here, or watch the new NAM short video, titled “Understanding Ground-Level Ozone Policies.”