EPA “Short Circuiting” Regulatory Process; Will Add Huge Costs, Little Benefit
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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 19, 2010 – A new proposed federal regulation aimed at reducing ozone short circuits the regulatory process, adds as much as $90 billion in costs to businesses and has an adverse effect on air quality, according to comments filed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to evaluate National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground level ozone. In 2008, President Bush’s Administration issued new ozone standards. Eighteen months later, the Obama Administration decided to reconsider the new standards.
“EPA’s decision to revise the NAAQS for ground level ozone short cuts the process for revising the NAAQS established in the CAA (Clean Air Act) and in the process the [EPA] Administrator is not relying on the “latest scientific knowledge” regarding the public health and welfare as the statute requires,” RMA wrote. “The Clean Air Act establishes a clear process for reviewing and revising NAAQS over a five-year period. EPA’s proposed revised ozone NAAQS bypass that statutorily mandated process.”
RMA also said that the health science evidence does not demonstrate that a new standard is justified. “In simple terms, EPA is proposing to reduce the primary ozone NAAQS based largely on clinical studies showing respiratory effects—but no apparent health effects—in sensitive individuals at 0.060 ppm (parts per million), and on epidemiology studies that EPA believes suggest there may be effects of exposure to ozone concentrations below 0.075 ppm,” RMA said in its comments. “The clinical studies, however, did not demonstrate a clear adverse health effect from exposure to ozone concentrations below 0.075 ppm, even in the harsh conditions of the clinical tests.
“Furthermore, these same clinical studies were reviewed as part of the 2008 Ozone NAAQS final rule and did not justify a lower standard at that time. It is inappropriate for EPA to now use this dated information to justify lowering the 2008 ground level ozone standard.”
Worse, EPA’s decision to revise the 2008 ozone standards will result in less improvement to ground level ozone concentrations and increased burdens on state and local agencies.
“EPA’s decision to revise the 2008 ozone standards to a more stringent limit of 0.060 – 0.070 ppm will, under the circumstances, impede rather than improve human health protection measures,” RMA said.
EPA’s rulemaking schedule would have a final rule by August 31, 2010; final designations by August 2011 and; state implementation plans for the reconsidered standards by December 2013.
“This abbreviated schedule is unrealistic, in RMA’s view, in light of experience and especially for the completely new form of the secondary standard,” RMA said. “And in any event, litigation over the proposed revisions could further delay implementation of the revised NAAQS standards. The effect of delaying implementation will result in less improvement in ground level ozone concentrations because states will continue to implement the 1997 8-hour standard of 0.08 (effectively 0.084) ppm rather than the 2008 8-hour standard of 0.0750 ppm.”
For the tire industry, the effect of this revised standard will be extremely burdensome.
RMA member facilities are predominantly located in rural areas that are currently designated as attainment areas. An attainment area is one that has “attained” an ozone level that complies with federal regulations. A “non-attainment area” is one that exceeds federal regulations for ozone.
Under the EPA proposed revision, many RMA member facilities will be in non-attainment areas. Facilities located in a non-attainment area face increased operating costs, permitting delays, and restrictions on expansions. Additionally, facilities located in counties that are designated as “severe” or “extreme” non-attainment face significant penalty fees under the Clean Air Act. An increase in the number of non-attainment areas as a result of the proposed rule will significantly impact states and counties that must find the resources to comply with the additional burdens of being in non-attainment.
The costs for a revised ozone rule are estimated to be significant while the benefits are limited. EPA estimates that revising the primary standard to a level at or near 0.060 ppm would produce annual benefits of $35-100 billion in 2020. Annual costs, however, are projected to be $52-90 billion.
“In other words, even using EPA’s optimistic assumptions about attainment status, costs, and benefits, there is a good chance that the costs of meeting the revised NAAQS would exceed the benefits by billions of dollars,” RMA said. “If EPA lowers the primary ozone NAAQS to a level at or near 0.070 ppm, EPA projects annual benefits of $13-37 billion and annual costs of $19-25 billion. Again, even with EPA’s dubious assumptions it is entirely possible that the costs would exceed any benefits.”
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The Rubber Manufacturers Association is the national trade association for the rubber products industry. Its members include companies that manufacture various rubber products, including tires, hoses, belts, seals, molded goods, and other finished rubber products.