Ground-Level Ozone Standards
Set up for Failure: EPA lowers ground-level ozone standards before states can even meet last benchmark
A current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal aims to lower the national air quality standard for ground-level ozone -- again. This comes as states around the country are still struggling to meet 2008's rigorous benchmark of 75 parts per billion (ppb) for ground-level ozone. Now, the EPA wants to lower the standard even further, from 75 ppb to as low as 60 ppb.
Further confounding is the fact that just a few years ago the current administration ago halted a similar EPA effort to tighten the standard, “affirm[ing] that the current standard issued in 2008 [is] adequately protective of human health and the environment.”
So, what would be the harm of further lowering an already demanding standard? With more areas in more states out of compliance, the utility sector could face two major challenges:
- First, electric facilities in urban areas that are already considered non-attainment zones could face additional operating restrictions. This could reduce their production and, in some cases, put them in direct conflict with other EPA regulations – which raises the question of whether one or both proposals are unreasonable and need to be reconsidered.
- Secondly, many rural counties that are not impacted by the current ozone standard could find themselves being designated as non-attainment areas if the standard were lowered. While facilities there are already subject to a large number of strict operating standards, they could find themselves being punished for non-compliance with new ozone regulations even though much of the ozone at fault would be from naturally occurring sources – a problem particularly prevalent in the Mountain West.
As with any rule or regulation affecting power production, the cost will ultimately be felt by residential and business consumers who will see their monthly electric bills rise as a result and their communities hurt by the ripple effect of higher electricity costs.
The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that a 60 ppb national standard for ozone would reduce the gross domestic product by $270 billion nationwide.