On Friday, September 30, 2011 President Obama withdrew the draft of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards for further scientific review. The Clean Air Act (amended 1990) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment).” The decision by the White House was lauded on economic grounds and condemned on environmental and public health grounds.
Tighter Standards Bad for Business and Jobs
The Washington Times reports that the new standards “would have cost the U.S. businesses anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion per year to comply with, a figure mentioned by the president earlier this week in a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.” In the same article House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said “it would have cost 7.3 million jobs by 2020.” A White House blog on Energy and Environment quotes Democratic Los Angles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa as saying, “In our current economic climate, we must do everything we can to stimulate the economy short of taking a step back in the unprecedented environmental gains this administration has already made. This is the sort of balanced approach we need to create jobs and also improve the quality of air, health and life for countless Americans.”
Fox News John Stossel talking with Neil Cavuto about air quality. Source: Fox News as excerpted by Media Matters for America
Tighter Standards Net Health Gains Without Harming Economic Growth
The Center for American Progress(CAP) reacts with disappointment to the White House announcement saying in part, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much needed—and long-overdue—ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” It goes on to say that the proposed standard would, “save 4,300 lives and prevent 7,000 hospital visits and tens of thousands of cases of asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses each year.”
In terms of economic impact CAP analysis indicates that negative economic impact from the 1997 standards update was negligible. Daniel J. Weiss, Arpita Bhattacharyya, and Raj Salhotra writing for Think Progress echo this view. They write, “Our analysis determined that contrary to industries’ predictions, the areas with smog levels exceeding the health standards for the first time experienced very similar economic growth to the nation as a whole. Employment rates were very similar to the national rate.”
Electric industry leaders(Peter Darbee, chairman,president and CEO,PG&E Corp.; Jack Fusco, president and CEO, Calpine Corp.; Lewis Hay, chairman and CEO, NextEra Energy, Inc.; Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.; Thomas King, president, National Grid USA,; John Rowe, chairman and CEO, Exelon Corp.; Mayo Shattuck, chairman, president and CEO, Constellation Energy Group; Larry Weis, general manager, Austin Energy) in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal state that “Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.”
In a Labor Day message recorded by EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson highlights the health and economic benefits of environmental regulation. In her message Jackson talks about employment opportunities across industries afforded by these regulations.
US EPA Adminstator’s Labor Day Message. Source: U.S. EPA