Manufacturing Matters

No Grounds for EPA's Ozone Rules

Every summer, thousands of Americans flock to our nation’s iconic national parks. But most of these visitors would likely be shocked to learn that under the Obama Administration’s new regulations, many of these national parks would violate the law on clear air.

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. New ground-level ozone rules under consideration right now are so restrictive, even some national parks would fail to comply. So, the question is this: If pristine parklands and wilderness areas can’t hack it under the new rules, what hope does that leave for cities and communities where actual industrial activity takes place?

This is the question we are asking as part of a full-scale National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)–sponsored campaign to educate the public on an issue of critical importance. Our goal is to not only highlight the unreasonableness of the proposed regulations, but also to help folks better understand how serious and potentially devastating the consequences of these new rules will be on jobs, communities and even our environment.

To be clear, the NAM and its members strongly support clean air and have been and remain at the front lines of reducing emissions. The new rules, however, represent unnaturally low levels of ozone in outdoor air throughout the country. The real culprit is actually “background” ozone, which exists naturally in ambient air or is caused by external factors far beyond local control. In other words, in many circumstances, it would actually be physically impossible to comply with the Obama Administration’s new standards. For more on how this would hurt manufacturers and the communities they anchor, read our August Member Focus cover story.

Even state air quality regulators have recognized that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations go too far. The Western States Air Resources Council, a group that represents environmental regulators from 15 states, notes that background ozone levels in remote locations, including national parks, are consistently above the EPA’s proposed levels. And a survey conducted by the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies found that most states are worried about the “role of background ozone” when it comes to complying with the EPA’s proposed rules.

These new regulations will not only upend our anemic economic growth, but also endanger significant air quality improvements underway. Innovations and other efforts already undertaken by manufacturers have helped to make our air healthier and cleaner than ever before. According to the EPA itself, ground-level ozone concentrations have dropped nearly 20 percent since 2000 and are projected to drop even further as more communities still work to meet the current standard put in place in 2008.

The Obama Administration is gambling jobs and our environment, instead of allowing a process that’s working to continue. And, if our parks can’t meet the new marks, imagine the effect on our nation’s manufacturing sector and on the middle-class families who depend on these jobs.

Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not mutually exclusive goals. We need President Obama to understand that and to put the brakes on unrealistic, unnecessary and unwise regulations.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Member Focus.