Regulations less strict than originally considered, but could still be damaging
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted stricter limits on smog emissions, forcing states to reduce the amount of emissions they produce. The new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) will allow for 70 parts per billion (ppb) of nitrogen oxides in the air throughout the United States.
The 70 ppb mark is higher than the EPA was considering in June, when the agency was putting out estimates of the health benefits associated with lowering the NAAQS to 65 ppb. The estimated benefits of meeting the costs could be as much as $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 if 70 parts per billion (ppb) of nitrogen are allowed into the air, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 if the standard is lowered to 65 ppb. These standards could be met with the rules and programs already in place in most states, according to the EPA’s factsheet.
Had the EPA decided to reduce ozone standards to 65 ppb, the regulation could have been the most costly in U.S. history, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM estimated that bringing standards down to 65 ppb would have meant a reduction of $140 billion per year in U.S. GDP from 2017 to 2040; resulted in 1.4 million fewer job equivalents (job equivalent calculated as total labor income change divided by the average annual income per job) on average through 2040; and cost the average U.S. household $830 per year in the form of lost consumption.
While the EPA did not lower NAAQS as far as many feared, the 70 ppb target will still mean more strain on power plants, factories and other business. Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) said the new regulation is “imposing new standards that are overly burdensome, technically unattainable and deficiently demonstrative of providing any environmental or public health benefit.”
Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC) said that the new regulations could have far reaching effects. “New highway projects or construction of critical infrastructure will face months of delay. If one manufacturer wants to expand, it has to find another one that will cut back.”
Environmental groups were also unhappy with the decision to go for looser restrictions, saying the new regulations are too weak. “President Obama has missed a major opportunity,” said John Walke, senior attorney and director of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resource Defense Council.
Some states will be hit harder than others
Texas is expected to be especially hard hit by the new EPA regulations, according to NAM’s research. The group estimates that the state would lose $286 billion in gross product loss from 2017 to 2040, lose nearly 350,000 jobs or job equivalents per year and cost $376 billion in total compliance costs.
The group also points out that emissions have already been cut in half since 1980, and will be cut an additional 36% if regulations are kept the way they are currently. The research also raises concerns over the more than 60% of emissions controls and technologies needed to meet the new regulations being “unknown,” or controls for which no cost information is already developed.
California, which has the nation’s worst air quality, is expected to receive additional time to meet the new standards, reports The L.A. Times. The state has failed to meet a series of previous ozone standards in the past, and is expected to have until 2037 – 12 years longer than the rest of the U.S. – to meet the new standards.
The American Institute of Petroleum (API) notes that the EPA’s data shows a decline in common pollutants nationally since 1980. API contends that air quality will continue to improve if current regulations are kept in place.