The President Makes the Right Call on Ozone
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It’s no secret that the Chamber hasn’t been thrilled with this Administration’s environmental agenda. However, we loudly applauded President Obama today for his decision to send EPA’s voluntary reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards back to EPA with instructions to withdraw the rule. This was absolutely, positively the right decision. A new ozone standard at this point in time would have limited business expansion in nearly every region of the United States and impaired the ability of U.S. companies to create new jobs. Now is simply not the time to saddle our economy with the extraordinary costs associated with EPA’s proposed national ozone standard.
In the end, the White House agreed with just about every argument the Chamber has made against moving forward with the ozone rule. Such as the fact that EPA’s new rules aren’t based on worsening conditions of air quality. They aren’t required by law or by court order. They aren’t required by the EPA’s own timetable. They don’t comply with the President’s Executive Order on easing unnecessary regulatory burdens. And they come as counties and states across the nation struggle to meet existing ozone standards and as businesses are making investments to meet the strict 2008 NAAQS that EPA was considering making even stricter.
So what happens now? The President will undoubtedly face a backlash from environmental groups over today’s announcement. The legal challenges (from environmentalists and industry) to the 2008 NAAQS will presumably restart. And compliance with the 2008 standard will resume. One group, WildEarth Guardians, filed suit against EPA last week seeking an injunction requiring the agency to make ozone nonattainment designations for counties out of compliance with the 2008 NAAQS.
In the meantime, EPA will move forward with the 2013 revision, in accordance with the five-year review process set forth in the Clean Air Act. So while today’s decision is clearly a victory for the American economy, keep in mind that it may be short-lived; EPA has the chance to do it all again in a few short years.
The Chamber therefore hopes today’s announcement is a springboard to real, meaningful action to reform the regulatory process. Federal agencies are increasingly using the regulatory process to “legislate by regulation.” At times, agency regulations create broad new policies that impact many industries in the regulated community; these policies can literally determine the fate of industrial sectors and the competitiveness of the nation. That was certainly the case with the ozone reconsideration.
But it is a danger also posed by pending and future greenhouse gas regulations, the Boiler MACT rules, the suite of anti-coal industry regulations (Utility MACT, coal ash, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, and rules governing cooling water intake structures), cement manufacturing air toxics standards, and several others sector-specific regulations. How many more of these environment-versus-the-economy battles must we all go through before addressing the root of the problem? The regulatory process is not functioning as designed, and it must be fixed. Let’s hope today’s announcement is the first of many steps toward getting this done.