New Fears EPA Smog Rule Will Cost 7.3 Million Jobs

Plan to tighten Bush rule could stop new highways, factories.

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Lawmakers today issued a new warning that an aggressive antismog plan being pushed by the Environmental Protection Agency could cost the nation $1 trillion, kill another 7.3 million jobs, or 4.3 percent of the workforce in 2020, and halt major construction of highways and factories in employment starved swaths of the nation.

At issue: The EPA's plan to go far beyond former President Bush's effort to tighten ozone standards way in advance of the planned review in 2013. It could push much of the nation into non-attainment status under the Clean Air Act, forcing major changes to improve air quality. Most business groups opposed the hurried-up regulations. The National Association of Manufacturers has drawn up a scary map that shows only parts of the central North, the top of Maine and a few other sections of the country that will be in compliance of the new ruling.

Environmental groups, however, cheer the changes, claiming it will make the air much more healthy.

[See editorial cartoons on climate change.]

Today at the weekly Senate GOP Caucus, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming led the opposition. "People in Wyoming are also concerned about jobs, the economy. And this week the Environmental Protection Agency is going to come out with new rules and regulations on ozone, which have been called the most expensive environmental regulations in the history of the United States. They didn't need to do this until 2013, but unilaterally, and I believe dangerously, they're coming out with this," he said.

"And even the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has said this will cost about 330,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. I think that the — that the focus around the country is on jobs and the economy, and this administration ought to take this 9.2 percent unemployment a lot more seriously than they are taking it right now."

[Read why the EPA's budget and power is under attack from Republicans.]

He also handed out a summation of many of business' warnings:

In 2008, the Bush administration tightened ozone standards in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) from 84 ppb to 75 ppb (parts per billion).

• Although the next ozone standard review isn't due until 2013, the EPA is moving forward with another rule to drastically lower the ozone standards.

• The Business Roundtable has called this new rule the "single most expensive environmental regulation ever imposed on the U.S. economy."

• If communities aren't able to meet these new standards, the EPA will have the ability to intervene and block any new construction, including new highways or factory expansions, if those activities contribute to ozone pollution.

• This will crush local investment, economic expansion and jobs.

Economic Impact:

• It would "push 565 new U.S. counties into non-attainment status under the Clean Air Act." – National Mining Association.

• "Non-attainment status has a chilling effect on any new economic activity in a designated area." – Midwest Power Coalition.

• The President's new ozone regulation "could cost nearly $1 Trillion over ten years." – Business Roundtable.

• "Total U.S. job losses because of the new standard are estimated to rise to 7.3 million by 2020." – Manufacturers Alliance.

• "Pennsylvania businesses and individuals could incur control costs of up to $3.2 billion and gross regional product could decline $31.4 billion by 2020. The state could also see more than 330,000 jobs lost by that same year." - Gene Barr, Vice President, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.