An interactive map released Tuesday by a coalition of leading business groups details the potential economic destruction they say would result from the toughening of air pollution rules by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA Ozone Standard Map shows that 85 percent of the nation's counties would fall out of compliance under the proposed EPA rules. In Virginia, only two counties would meet the standards, while no counties in Maryland would.
"You would have a country with a 'Not Open for Business' sign," said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former Michigan governor. "That would be a very heavy burden on an economy that’s already pretty fragile."
The EPA wants to cut the national ambient air-quality standard to between 60 and 70 parts per billion of allowable ozone, which would push thousands of communities over the limit, which currently is 75 ppb. The agency sent its proposal to the White House last week. The final decision will be made by the end of the month.
Environmental groups, however, say lowering the limit is vital to the population’s health and called the push by business groups and congressional Republicans a "last-ditch effort" to "sidetrack the decision."
But the new standard would come with a high price tag. During a conference call to discuss the issue, the Business Roundtable told reporters that with 85 percent of counties out of compliance with the law as many as 7.3 million American jobs could be lost by 2020.
"You’re sending a very clear message to job creators that this country is not interested in job growth," said Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, who was also on the conference call. "This is the entire economy that gets frozen here."
Communities that fail to drop within the limit will be hit with fines and forced to place restrictions on businesses. One of the biggest restrictions will be a rule that they have to tear down one or more buildings before they can build a new one.
Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said the new standards would be "extremely strict."
"It’s perhaps the most significant regulation right now that will stand in the way of jobs," he said. "It goes so far that it chills our ability to create jobs and bring the economy back."
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