The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday tightened the federal ozone standard, dismissing the concerns of powerful business groups and setting off a regulatory and legal fight that will last for the remainder of President Obama’s time in office.
The agency’s updated ozone regulations lower the standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 parts per billion.
In its rulemaking the process, the agency had considered a standard as low as 65 ppb, while environmental and climate-change activists had pushed the administration to go even further, perhaps as low as 60 ppb.
Reducing the amount of ozone — produced by power generation, manufacturing facilities, automobiles and other sources — in the air will greatly improve the quality of Americans’ health, the EPA argues, and will shrink the number of asthma cases across the nation.
“Put simply, ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today’s action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children’s health.”
But business groups, which had pushing the administration to keep the standard at its current 75 ppb level, say the regulations will be the most expensive in U.S. history, siphoning as much as $3.4 trillion out of the economy over the next two decades.
“Today, the Obama administration finalized a rule that is overly burdensome, costly and misguided,” National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement. “For months, the administration threatened to impose on manufacturers an even harsher rule, with even more devastating consequences. After an unprecedented level of outreach by manufacturers and other stakeholders, the worst-case scenario was avoided. However, make no mistake: The new ozone standard will inflict pain on companies that build things in America — and destroy job opportunities for American workers. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and take a stand for working families.”
Lawmakers of both parties object to the change, and even President Obama has conceded that the ozone rules could bring economic consequences.
The real-world ramifications of the move will be felt by local governments, which now will be required to install pollution-control equipment on cars, manufacturing facilities, power plants, chemical plants and in other sectors of the economy.