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Katy Grimes

Ethically-Challenged EPA Pushes Regs Costing Billions, With Dubious Justification

The 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ozone regulations were halted in 2011, and have not been implemented. Yet the EPA is planning to push forward even stricter smog rules, demonstrating that public hearings allowing public testimony are just window dressing.

The air we breathe today is the cleanest air since the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s. Despite this fact, the day before Thanksgiving, the EPA released its proposal to “strengthen” ground level ozone emissions known as smog.

Current EPA ozone regulations set the nationwide limit at 75 parts per billion. The EPA is considering lowering it to 60 parts per billion, making the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone and several other pollutants significantly more restrictive.

Ozone is the invisible gas in smog that the EPA says irreparably damages the lungs and causes asthma sufferers more harm.

Another hearing

The third and final public hearing Monday on the stringent new standard for ozone was held in Sacramento. Many attending the hearing wondered how the EPA can propose such a new standard, when they don’t even know if the 2008 standards worked.

The hearing Monday to increase all “ground level ozone” regulations will have the effect of rendering nearly every business, county and city in the country “non-attainable,” according to testimony. The new regulations will likely impose hundreds of billions of dollars in costs on businesses throughout the country, and dramatically hurt the struggling U.S. economy.

A July 2014 study published by the National Association of Manufacturers and NERA Economic Consulting found that more restrictive ozone standards would produce reductions in gross domestic product from the electric power sector of up to $270 billion annually, from 2017 to 2040. The study also said that the more restrictive ozone standard would produce fewer jobs, lead to higher household costs, increase gas and electricity costs, and cut gas and oil production in the U.S.

Many who attended the hearing said they believe the more restrictive ozone standard would produce only negative economic effects, and asked whether the EPA’s expected benefits actually justify the program costs.

However, many air quality regulators say there’s no difference between a bakery, a cattle feed lot, or an oil refinery and their emissions, if it’s causing ozone pollution.

Real or not: Just How Dangerous is Ozone?

Ted Steiphen, Senior Policy Analyst with the America Petroleum Institute testified that the increased ozone regulations could be catastrophic, would have “far reaching negative impacts,” and cost hundreds of billions, as well as millions of lost jobs.

Steiphen said there is also debate about the EPA science, and challenged the need for the new ozone standards, given that the 2008 standards haven’t even been met. And, given that the 2008 standards haven’t been met, new stricter ozone standards could likely be unattainable and unachievable, they should be rejected.

However, one after another, supporters of the new, stricter ozone regulations testified right out of the same playbook: They say children can’t play outside because of air pollution.

On its website, “Climate Parents” says “Climate change is harming our kids and communities, fueling the droughts, wildfires and super storms afflicting much of our country.” At Monday’s hearing, John Freidrich from Climate Parents urged the EPA to go further. “Smog harms children, the elderly, grandparents, and those at risk,” he said. “Clean air scientists want 60 ppb – the most public health protection.”

“If a standard does not protect the most vulnerable among us — the children, the elderly and those with asthma — then it’s not protective enough,” said Sacramento resident Ann Rothschild, from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Rothschild also asked the EPA to hold firm to the goal of 60 parts per billion. “We must act for those unrepresented. Thank you for your work; you are our protection.”

Rothschild’s testimony was nearly identical to the long list of others who thanked the EPA, and urged it to impose stricter ozone regulations: the Sierra Club, California Interfaith Power & Light, activist Michael Monasky, the American Lung Association, several air quality management districts in the state, and many individuals wearing t-shirts that said “We ♥Clean Air.”

EPA wants to help the most vulnerable

It’s difficult to believe the EPA is sincerely interested in helping the “most vulnerable population.”

According to the EPA, and supporters of the proposed regulation, smog causes everything from cardiovascular disease, to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD.) Yet, the EPA has been conducting diesel exhaust experiments on children at UCLA and USC. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct experiments on children, to determine whether exposure to diesel exhaust harms humans. These experiments are illegal under the Nuremberg Code, California state law, and federal regulations.

EPA should help most vulnerable free market establishments 

Cynthia Cory, who testified at the EPA hearing, is with the California Farm Bureau. Following the hearing, Cory said in an interview the proposed ozone regulation was so restrictive, even if all combustion is stopped, the air quality desired by the EPA still won’t be achieved. “Eighty percent of the ozone settling in the Central Valley is not from north America,” Cory said. “In the Los Angeles basin, 63 – 76 percent is from outside sources. This cannot be ignored.”

“Even if we sat at home naked without anything running, we wouldn’t meet the EPA attainment rule,” Cory said.  “We’ve shipped all of our manufacturing to China, and now we are getting the pollution back.”

Cory said the agriculture industry is already highly regulated. Ranchers with animals must obtain an air permit for each animal, because “VOCs come from both ends.” VOCs are volatile organic compounds which are “emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects,” according to the EPA.

Additionally, farmers, ranchers and growers have been forced to:

  • replace working irrigation pumps;
  • they must comply with new forklift rules which required replacement of most forklifts – an expensive undertaking;
  • they had to replace expensive transportation refrigerator units, or pay for special retrofits;
  • there has been a complete ban on agriculture burning, which now causes a buildup of nitrogen;
  • there are strict pesticide rules;
  • they’ve had to replace recovery gas storage tanks;
  • wineries have had to replace wine fermentation tanks; and
  • diesel regulations have forced the agricultural industry to replace perfectly good diesel vehicles, with 2010 models, or newer.

No other state in the nation is telling farmers they have to abide by such restrictive regulations. These regulations render California growers, ranchers and farmer non-competitive, and drives up the cost of food.

Hold your horses… until after the election

Ironically, in 2011, just as EPA Chief Lisa Jackson was about to tighten controls and ratchet up ozone regulations, President Obama ordered Jackson to hold off – until he could be reelected.

Alarmists at the EPA hearing said ongoing unrelenting smog could cause debilitation, or early death in millions. According to the EPA, stronger smog standards might have saved 4,300 lives nationally, and helped avoid 2,200 heart attacks a year, had Obama not cut the program back.

Advocates of the EPA proposal said that because ozone is assumed to be a health hazard, costs mean nothing.

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