US EPA Smog Standards Spell out Big Costs and Trouble for Ohio

Last week, the US EPA introduced another burdensome regulatory proposal. This time on ground level ozone, or smog. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and emissions react with sunlight, making levels rise on hot sunny days. In 2008 the ozone limit was reduced to 75 parts per billion (ppb). In 2011, the Obama administration delayed EPA from releasing further reductions until after his 2012 re-election campaign. President Obama’s regulatory administrator, Cass Sustein said the delay was to, “minimize regulatory costs and burdens, particularly in this economically challenging time”. It appears, cost and burdens are of little concern now and the Clean Air Act prohibits US EPA from considering costs when revising national air quality standards anyway.

Although EPA data shows 34 of Ohio’s 88 counties would be in violation of the new proposed limit, EPA projects that by 2025 all but two Ohio counties (Franklin, Hamilton) would meet the more stringent standards through our current ozone reduction programs. In 1996, Ohio established the E-Check program in response to new standards. E-check still operates in 7 Ohio counties and currently costs tax payers about $11 million a year to meet 2008 standards. Ohio EPA also operates around 50 ozone monitors across Ohio providing air quality measurements in real time.

Air quality in Ohio has consistently improved, however, over the past 30 years. What keeps changing is the standard by which U.S. EPA defines “clean”. Ohio EPA adopted new rules in 2008 to help meet the last set of standards, including requirements on cleaner automotive paints, architectural coatings, better sealed gas cans and cleaner consumer products. It is too soon to know what, if any, additional air pollution controls will be needed should the new standards be accepted. What we do know, is costly ozone rules could significantly increase costs in Ohio of electricity, automotive maintenance, manufacturing of products and permitting requirements to run a successful business in Ohio.