Administration Environmental Policy Out in the Ozone

Last week, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and a number of other Congressmen with states who rely heavily on energy production for economic stability, sent a letter to EPA head Lisa Jackson expressing some concerns over her agency’s impartiality. At the heart of their complaints, a series of backdoor regulations the EPA has put into place in recent months: regulations that are not only harming American energy industries, but which are actively destroying jobs in a already troubled economy.

Now, the EPA doesn’t seem to mind that it wields extensive power that it’s using to change the very fabric of the American financial system, but residents of states whose economies are dependent on energy job growth – and the leaders of these industries – are starting to see a problem.

Before, it might have just been industries that environmentalists considered “problematic,” but a recent EPA rule is about to put a wrench in the operations of nearly every carbon-dioxide-expelling creature or industry on the planet. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone, part of the Clean Air Act, currently demands that ozone emissions be limited to 75 parts per billion. That standard was put into place only two years ago, and companies are only now beginning to come into compliance. Instead of allowing industries to meet this standard, though, the EPA immediately moved the goalposts: they are now considering standards that would limit ozone emissions to only 70 or, more stringent yet, 60 parts per billion.

Apart from economic and social context, these numbers seem meaningless. But consider this: if the EPA were to choose the lesser of the standards, 70 parts per billion, only 24% of the 675 US counties who monitor ozone would be in compliance. If the bar were lowered to 60 parts per billion, only 4% of counties would make the cut. All of the areas that didn’t meet the standard would become subject to strict EPA scrutiny, as well as billions in fees and fines. Some of the more egregious offenders might even lose federal highway funding, and find themselves under the never-ending watchful eye of Lisa Jackson’s already-intrusive environmental watchdogs.

The standards would be even worse for American industry. On average, to hit the 60ppb mark, it would cost businesses over ninety billion dollars. By the year 2020, compliance with this standard could cost the US 3.6% of its GDP. And these are just the EPA’s own estimates. Economists and industry experts predict more serious consequences, including an estimated 7.3 million jobs lost by 2020. States where manufacturing is a key industry, and responsible for a hefty percentage of the tax burden would suffer harsh consequences. Wisconsin would lose almost 80,000 jobs at a total attainment cost and reduction in state GDP of $12.6 billion (in 2010 dollars). Pennsylvania, could lose 351,000 jobs at a cost of $86 billion. Ohio, which could lose nearly 300,000 jobs at a cost of $69.2 billion. North Carolina, which would lose 113,950 jobs at a cost of $18.3 billion. And Michigan, already one of the states hardest hit by the economic downturn could stand to lose 122,108 jobs at a cost of $23 billion.

And that is just one of a host of Clean Air Act revisions. Ozone emitters have very little to worry about when compaired to those who find themselves in the center of the EPA’s crosshairs time and again, like, for example, the coal industry. The EPA’s latest attack on coal falls under revisions of the Clean Air Act having to do with greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time in the Clean Air Act’s history, the EPA will use CAA provisions as weapons of mass destruction, using them to force industries to lower greenhouse gas emissions…or face the EPA’s wrath.

Under the new scheme, coal power plants that emit greenhouse gasses – specifically gasses which contain trace amounts of mercury – would be forced to upgrade technology to meet impossible standards. Although it sounds simple, in some cases, this technology is too expensive to install, or, worse yet, doesn’t yet exist. In some cases, this new rule, called the “MACT” rule – Maximum Achievable Control Technology – would force coal-powered power plants to close completely, causing major grid problems, driving the cost of energy up, and killing jobs and local economies. Just this rule alone could cost Americans heavily. Estimates indicate that this approach will depress investment by $300 billion by 2014, reduce Gross Domestic Product by up to $500 billion, and eliminate 2.5 million jobs.

Obviously, Sen. Inhofe and his associates had cause for concern when they requested that Lisa Jackson submit to an investigation into her administration’s actions. Among just these complaints, Sen. Inhofe and others cited a host of other problems, among them a total lack of impartiality, a failure on the part of the EPA to consider perspectives that differed from those they immediately agreed with, and having as advisors people who directly benefit – the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars – from EPA grants. It goes without saying that the EPA is totally blind, as well, to the economic and social consequences of it’s direct actions. These numbers are staggering, yet the EPA would trudge on, killing the American economy, were it not for a vocal few who have managed, thus far, to stave off the EPA’s blatant power grab.


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