Editorial: Manufacturers making the case against EPA ozone rules

The National Association of Manufacturers has begun broadcasting a television commercial across the West, including Nevada stations, that argues that a Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency rule for reducing ozone is a futile gesture that will harm the economy and kill jobs.

The commercial notes that Western states have cut smog-causing ozone by 21 percent over the past decade, but pollution from China has offset much of that reduction.

In December the EPA issued an order cutting allowable ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to either 65 or 70 ppb. By court order, the agency must finalize the standard by Oct. 1. (Think of 1 ppb as the equivalent of one drop of ink in the tanker of the largest gasoline tanker truck.) And the agency is contemplating cutting the allowable level to 60 ppb.

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars.

The manufacturers’ ad calculates the rules will cost more than $1.7 trillion — the most expensive regulation in history — and kill more than 1.4 million jobs per year.

A third of the country is out of compliance with the current standard of 75 ppb and cutting to 60 ppb would leave 95 percent of the country out of compliance.

In the West, much of the ozone is naturally occurring. A recent study found that the Great Basin area is the bulls-eye for something called stratospheric intrusions that bring ozone from the stratosphere down to the surface.

According to the EPA, Clark County at 77 ppb on average for the past three years already exceeds the current 75 ppb limit. A lower limit would put White Pine County’s 74 ppb over the line. Lyon County at 69 ppb and Washoe and Storey at 68 ppb would exceed a 65 ppb limit. Churchill would squeeze under at 56 ppb. But none of the other Nevada counties has ozone monitoring stations at this time, and thus the impact is unknown.

The manufacturers estimate the ozone rule will cost Nevada $19 billion in GDP loss from 2017 to 2040, 11,224 lost jobs per year, $174 million in total compliance cost, a drop of $750 per year in household consumption and $23 million per year to operate vehicles. Nationally, electricity bills will go up 15 percent and natural gas bills 32 percent.

Atop that, the science linking respiratory ailments to ozone levels is widely disputed and unsettled.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Tony Cox, editor of Risk Analysis, says the EPA claim that reducing ozone levels will reduce asthma and other respiratory diseases is based on unproven statistical modeling.

“Fortunately, there is abundant historical data on ozone levels and asthma levels in U.S. cities and counties over the past 20 years, many of which have made great strides in reducing ambient levels of ozone by complying with existing regulations,” Cox writes. “It is easy to check whether adverse outcomes, from mortality rates to asthma rates, have decreased more where ozone levels have been reduced more. They have not.”

He said the use of optimistic models instead of practical reality undercuts the EPA’s arguments for the new rules, especially in light of the overall costs to the economy and the workforce.

Congress needs to rein in this irrational faith-based agency.

Smog over Las Vegas in 2011. (R-J photo)

A version of this editorial appears this past week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

New EPA ozone rules will cause economic damage to Nevada

Smog over Las Vegas (R-J photo)

The Environmental Protection Agency this past week issued draconian new regulations that slash the levels of ozone allowed in ground-level air, posing a particular problem for all of Nevada.

“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy blithely.

The order cuts allowable ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion, for which most states have yet to draw up compliance plans, to either 65 or 70 ppb. The agency is still quibbling over the exact level but already is planning to conduct hearings on whether to cut the allowable level to 60 ppb. (Yes, that’s parts per billion. Think of 1 ppb as the equivalent of one drop of ink in the tanker of the largest gasoline tanker truck.)

While ozone is naturally occurring, much of the ground-level ozone is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels

In order to comply with ozone limits, states will have to create contingency plans under which power plants, manufacturers and agriculture operations must cut back or shut down altogether.

Approximately a third of the country is out of compliance with the cur¬rent standard of 75 ppb and cutting to 60 ppb would leave 95 percent of the country out of compliance.

It is bad enough that much of Nevada’s ozone is blown in on the winds from smog producing California cities, Asian coal-fired power plants and wildfires, but a recent study found that the Great Basin area is the bulls-eye center for something called stratospheric intrusions that bring ozone from the stratosphere down to the surface.

Researchers took readings from a mountain top 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas and found that stratospheric intrusions added at least 30 ppb to the natural ozone level, which is usually 50 to 60 ppb. That pushes the ozone level to at least 80 ppb and violates EPA’s current standard, much less the new, more stringent one.

According to the EPA, Clark County at 77 ppb on average for the past three years already exceeds the current 75 ppb limit. A lower limit would put White Pine County’s 74 ppb over the line. Lyon County at 69 ppb and Washoe at 68 ppb would exceed a 65 ppb limit. Churchill would squeeze under at 56 ppb. But none of the other Nevada counties even have ozone monitoring stations at this time, and thus the impact is unknown.

The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the ozone rule could cost $270 billion a year — the most expensive regulation in history.

To which McCarthy replies, “Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses, but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.” Since when is thumb-twiddling a job?

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars.

For Nevadans it will cost $23 million more to own and operate vehicles. The Silver State’s gross state product would be reduced by $19 billion and 11,224 jobs a year would be eliminated.

To add insult to injury, the science linking respiratory ailments to ozone levels is widely disputed and unsettled.

Maybe the EPA will next ban people from living in Nevada. That might be the only way to comply with the new rule.

Or maybe the EPA will relent. Don’t hold your breath.