Business Groups Argue EPA's Plan Will Have Economic Consequences

Nov 27, 2014
Originally published on November 27, 2014 12:12 pm
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The Environmental Protection Agency had one last item of work before going on Thanksgiving holiday - it proposed some new regulations announced yesterday. Those regulations are aimed at cutting ozone-depleting emissions from power plants and factories. And almost as soon as they were announced, major business groups began warning that tougher standards could hurt the economy. NPR's John Ydstie reports.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Since 1980, ozone pollution has fallen by a third in the U.S, but the EPA is required by law to review the science underlying air-quality regulations every five years. As she introduced the tougher standard Wednesday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the new rule would better protect the respiratory health of Americans.

GINA MCCARTHY: Kids can grow up healthier, and their parents and their grandparents can live longer, healthier lives as well. For example, we estimate that meeting a level of 70 parts per billion would prevent an estimated 330 missed school days.

YDSTIE: And McCarthy said it would also prevent 750 premature deaths a year.

ROSS EISENBERG: Certainly, manufactures want clean air and clean water, just like everybody else.

YDSTIE: Ross Eisenberg of the National Association of Manufacturers says the problem is that the technology to meet the proposed standard isn't available.

EISENBERG: Manufacturers innovate. We always do. And this statute requires us to. We're very, very nervous, though - is that, you know - that we're at a point where we may not be able to innovate anymore.

YDSTIE: The EPA's McCarthy expressed confidence that industry could meet the new standard, which would take effect over the next two decades. In fact, she said, tougher standards actually drive innovation.

MCCARTHY: One of the great things about continually updating this is it does spark innovation and new technologies.

YDSTIE: McCarthy says the economic equation is that for every dollar of cost to meet the new regulation, there would be $3 in benefits. But that cost-benefit calculation is very speculative, says Howard Feldman of the American Petroleum Institute and Industry Research Group. He says that's precisely because the technology needed to meet the standard hasn't been developed. And Feldman says the new standard could curb growth in some parts of the country that will have a hard time meeting it.

HOWARD FELDMAN: We've seen in many places around the country where businesses have been unable to expand because of air quality standards. And we've seen costs imposed on consumers throughout the nation because of that.

YDSTIE: Feldman points to Southern California and the Houston area as places where business costs have escalated because of current regulations. Industry will have a chance to make its concerns known during a three-month comment period. EPA hopes to finalize the rule by next October, however, the new Republican Congress could try to block it. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.