New ozone rules could choke industry: Ex-EPA official

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The new ozone regulations handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency could end industrial development in many parts of the country, a former agency official told Congress Thursday.

Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at Bracewell and Giuliani and a former assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, warned members of the House Science, Space and Technology committee that the new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone could mean a drop in industrial investment.

Holmstead argued the areas of the country that would be out of compliance when the standards come into effect between 2020 and 2037 would not be able to allow any new businesses, such as factories, that may cause ozone emissions.

The costs of the regulation will be passed down to consumers because many of the cheap options for reducing ozone already have been done, Holmstead said.

“For more than 40 years, the EPA and the states have been looking for every conceivable way to reduce ozone,” he said. “Where there is any additional reduction to be had, it will be very expensive.”

On Oct. 1, the EPA announced it would lower the standard from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. States have between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standard, depending on the state.

Ozone is the primary ingredient in smog.

EPA officials estimate that many areas not in complaince will meet the standard, without changing any of their practices, by 2025.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., called the regulation “bureaucratic bullying” and said compliance would be costly without providing many more health benefits.

“This will be devastating to my state, which has been working very hard on its own and has been reducing ozone,” he said.

Bridenstine’s estimates are contrary to the EPA’s estimation of costs and benefits. The agency projects the cost of implementing the regulation will be about $1.4 billion, while the health benefits could end up being somewhere between $2.9 billion and $5.9 billion.

Many Democrats on the committee expressed confidence in businesses’ ability to adapt to the new regulations.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said critics of the regulation who point to the continued improvement in ozone levels in U.S. air levels want to stop pushing because of that success. She accused them of exaggerating how much it will cost to implement the ozone regulations.

She said since the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s, the country’s economy has grown enormously despite the influx of regulations that the law brought with it.

“When the environment is healthy, the economy is healthy, too,” she said.

Elena Craft, senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said business groups will always criticize new environmental regulations.

“The ‘sky is falling’ prognostications are not new,” she said. “The fact is we can do it and we have done it.”

Still, Republicans on the committee pointed out a lot of work will be needed to get much of the country into attainment.

Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said that many areas of the country have reduced ozone levels to the lowest point that current technology allows. He said 60 percent of the costs associated with the lowered ozone standard are based on technology that doesn’t exist yet.

Businesses must come up with the technology to reduce ozone levels further or there will be consequences, he said.

“Ultimately, good jobs will be lost in these areas,” Smith said.

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CD01 Staff for Bridenstine About CD01 Staff for Bridenstine
Congressman Jim Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First District, which covers Washington, Tulsa, Wagoner Counties plus portions of Rogers & Creek Counties. Bridenstine serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. In 2018 he was confirmed as NASA Administrator. To see more of his articles via OKGrassroots while in Congress formerly via