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Ozone Standards Postponed - A Good First Step

BY: Bradley L. Coyle, CHMM

 

President Barrack Obama may have actually inadvertently saved jobs recently when he asked EPA's administrator, Lisa Jackson, to withdraw the agency's draft for more stringent ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  By some estimates, the new ozone standard may have cost as much as $700 billion in negative economic impact as well as potentially costing as many as 7 million jobs by the year 2020(1).

It's obvious that no one wants to breathe dirty air but, the reality is that the ozone standards are already pretty tight.  I'm neither a health nut nor a toxicologist but, it's likely getting to the point that the cost to bring the NAAQ down is not likely to have a significant positive effect on human health.   In short, the costs of tightening the standard would likely outweigh the benefit.  This particular NAAQ falls in to the law of 'Diminishing Returns'.

I've read where the numbers of asthmatics has increased by 70%+ over the past 15 years(2).  Odd, isn't it?  We've made HUGE strides to better the air quality through the addition of various pieces of legislation and stringent permitting programs over the past 40 years yet these types of air quality-driven illnesses rise?  Sure…some of it is diagnosis and understanding of the ailments but, will driving an ozone NAAQ further towards the floor be actually advantageous from a health standpoint, or will it simply continue to slow economic growth and reduce the United State's overall economic well-being?

The tip of the iceberg was revealed by allowing the proposed ozone NAAQ to be shelved.  This, in my opinion, was a very good thing in today's economic times and offered a level of recognition that many of the regulations in the pipeline or coming out are BAD for the overall good of Americans.  What has failed to be recognized is the cost of many other burdensome pieces of air regulation that are still 'in the wild' and will be law (or may have already become law); these will cost Americans more in nearly every aspect of their lives.  The boiler MACT, the utility MACT, transport rule… the list goes on and on in to what has even been called the regulatory 'Train Wreck'(3).

Again, we all want great air(4).  We all want to be healthy.  We all want to live long and prosper (yes, I'm giving the Vulcan Salute while typing)… but, where's the line and is there a line?  So far, this administration's focus has been at the edge of overly burdensome, in my opinion.  Further though, it is my opinion that President Obama should be recognized for shelving this legislation while in the heart of an economic downturn.  Overall though - the bulk of the iceberg is still below water and poses a SIGNIFICANT threat to how we operate as Americans(5).

 

(1)     http://www.mapi.net/Filepost/ER-707.pdf

(2)     http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba598/

(3)      http://www.alec.org/docs/EPA-TRAIN-WRECK-2011-Final-Full-printres.pdf

(4)      http://www.aei.org/article/energy-and-the-environment/a-clean-air-regulation-  hazardous-to-health/

(5)      http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/02/statement-president-ozone-national-ambient-air-quality-standards

 

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Mr. Coyle has worked with Linebach Funkhouser, Inc. for nearly 10 years.  In his current role, Mr. Coyle leads the environmental compliance group assisting various nationwide clientele with air, water, and waste issues.  Mr. Coyle can be reached by calling 502.895.5009.