- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

The zealots at the Environmental Protection Agency are poised to suck a trillion dollars and 7 million jobs out of the economy with an unnecessary and destructive change to pollution rules. Less than two years ago, the EPA set a ground-level ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb), but Obama administration officials are looking to impose an even lower standard of 60 ppb by fiat. That seemingly small change will have sweeping effects throughout the economy.

Ozone is created when harmful emissions from cars and factories react with sunlight to create one of the building blocks of smog. Reasonable limitations on such pollutants are appropriate, but what the EPA proposes is far from reasonable. The likely standard is so low it approaches the natural background level of ozone found in many areas of the country. There is no new science compelling President Obama’s team to change the rules, but they will have a significant impact on businesses still struggling to meet 2008 targets. Manufacturing plants already meet strict standards, but many will be forced to install expensive new equipment to reach the EPA’s proposed levels. As all of the easy fixes for cleaning up emissions have been implemented already, incremental reductions come with a steep price tag. In the current rocky economy, imposing new costs is only going to thwart recovery.

Businesses in so-called “non-attainment” areas where strict EPA regulations apply will find they are better off packing up and moving out to locations where they wouldn’t have to deal with the extra costs. That’s bad news for states like California, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana that would be hardest hit by the proposal. Using NERA Economic Consulting data, the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI last month predicted that implementing the technologies needed to meet EPA’s proposed goal would cost the economy a staggering $1 trillion every year. A total of 7.3 million jobs would be lost along the way, adding 4.3 percent of the work force to the unemployment line by 2020.

Consumers also would feel the pinch as a 60-ppm standard would create 608 new non-attainment areas that invite bureaucrats to impose draconian rules on everyone in the name of environmentalism. Local jurisdictions could be forced to lower speed limits in the name of “clean air,” to create useless car-inspection regimes and restrict use of diesel equipment in such a way that construction activity effectively would be outlawed.

This suits the O Force just fine, as the left’s ultimate goal is the rolling back of the Industrial Revolution. While automobiles and factories do generate pollution, the environmental extremists fail to acknowledge the incredible benefits they bring to the environment and our quality of life. Cities were filthy places with unbreathable air when horses served as the primary mode of transportation. Imposing unrealistic standards will thwart the progress of technology that has steadily improved living conditions for all. That’s why Congress should intervene and block the EPA’s proposed rule.