The real ozone threat is to jobs

When it comes to job creation and economic growth, bureaucrats in Washington are experts at building roadblocks. There’s no doubt their obstructionism, led by President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, is taking our economy in the wrong direction. In fact, federal regulation and intervention cost our economy an estimated $1.88 trillion last year alone. Despite their obstructionism, many of North Carolina’s industries have done a tremendous job growing, investing in our state and providing good-paying jobs. But what we see down the road puts us all at risk.

The Obama administration wants to strengthen its hold on the economy by tightening existing standards for ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is created by chemical reactions between sunlight and emissions by cars, trucks, tractors, power plants, factories, and consumer products like spray paint and hair sprays. But it doesn’t only occur from human action — it occurs naturally from plants, fires, lightning and animals. We also face a surge of ozone coming from China and Mexico.

According to the EPA’s own data and research, our air is getting cleaner under existing standards, with ozone levels declining more than 30 percent since 1980. Yet, it’s capriciously proposing lowering the national ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 ppb and is taking comment on 60 ppb. This comes at a time when states are already spending billions of dollars to reduce air pollution and scrambling to be in compliance.

This proposed rule is so strict that it’s at or below naturally occurring levels in some of our state and national parks. Take Yellowstone National Park, where peak ozone levels are approximately 67 ppb — can you imagine a pristine wilderness retreat not being in compliance with the EPA? It’s mind-boggling. The EPA is refusing to face the fact that this standard is unworkable.

A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s new rule will cost America’s economy more than $140 billion a year between 2017 and 2040. It could lead to over 1.4 million fewer U.S. jobs, and costs and job loss will be even higher if the EPA finalizes a 60 ppb standard. This could end up being the most expensive, sweeping regulation to date.

The proposed rule would have a detrimental effect on jobs right here at home. These changes will drive many counties across North Carolina into nonattainment and make it significantly more difficult — if not impossible — for new construction and expansion. In fact, 77 counties in our state would be in noncompliance with the lower EPA standard of 65 ppb, leaving local governments to find ways to offset emissions to attract and develop new businesses. The EPA has even gone as far as to suggest that communities in violation reduce speed limits, reduce construction hours, restrict the use of backyard barbecues, and even implement idling restrictions for cars.

Because of this ridiculous red-tape, new highway projects or construction of critical infrastructure will face months of delay. If one manufacturer wants to expand, it has to find another one that will cut back. This means all across our great state, power plants would shut down, manufacturing would stop and jobs would be lost, bringing any economic growth to a halt. If the EPA pushes 60 ppb, your county wouldn’t be in compliance, putting vital jobs and the livelihood of you and your neighbors at risk.

I have joined my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power to examine the proposed ozone rule. The EPA had nothing to show that convinced me the merits of this proposed rule. Too many folks are out of work, and the last thing our government should be doing is mandating new rules that hinder job creation and economic growth in exchange for uncertain benefits.