President’s Unapologetic Regulatory Push (The Hill)

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August in Washington, D.C., is generally the time when the city powers down. But this summer, we saw a regulatory onslaught from the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This August, President Obama unveiled a costly and unnecessary proposed rule to regulate methane emissions from our nation’s energy producers, and in the beginning of August, he unveiled the overreaching Clean Power Plan. 

All these regulations and the several more that have come out of the EPA this summer could be dwarfed by the impacts of another major regulation due out at any moment: a more stringent ozone standard.

The EPA is on the verge of releasing a new ozone standard that by all accounts could be the most expensive regulation in history, costing the economy as much as $140 billion per year, putting more than 1 million jobs in jeopardy and harming already struggling communities. 

For manufacturers, this could be devastating. And these are the same manufacturers that support an estimated 17.6 million jobs and contribute $2.09 trillion to the economy.

Since 1980, ozone levels have fallen 33 percent thanks in large part to innovations conceived, built and advanced by manufacturers across the country. Obama himself said in August that America has “solved” the smog problem in this country. And regulations, technologies and investments to improve fuel economy, increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions will drive further air quality improvements over the next decade and beyond.

Our air quality is improving. So why mess with success and endanger an already sluggish economic recovery in the process?

A recent National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) study shows that tightening the existing standard to the EPA’s proposed new measurement could put 1.4 million jobs at risk per year. It would harm households and industrial energy consumers alike. It could drain $1.8 trillion from our GDP between 2017 and 2040.  

And the new standard could force entire regions of the country into so-called “nonattainment,” no-economic-growth zones—a sort of regulatory limbo that can make it all but impossible for businesses to expand operations or engage in growth-related activities. 

At a time when cities and states need more enterprise zones, the last measure they need from Washington is forced no-growth zones. That’s why more than 260 organizations, including the NAM, mayors and local leaders from across the country and 22 governors have asked President Obama not to move forward with a tighter standard. Senators and governors from the President’s own party oppose changing the current standards and inflicting pain on working Americans. Bipartisanship is difficult in Washington, D.C., but on opposing new ozone rules, Democrats, Republicans and even major editorial boards have found common ground.

Many states are still scrambling to implement the current requirement. Manufacturers and others are working hard to do the same, investing time and money that can’t be allocated elsewhere to hire more workers and grow businesses.  

Moving the goal line just as we are getting close to it makes no sense. 

By setting emissions limits so close to naturally occurring levels, Obama’s EPA effectively guarantees that some states will fail to meet the new requirements. The economic consequences will be immense, and even the EPA will fall into the unenviable position of trying to police counties on a case-by-case basis.

That will put manufacturers as well as governors, mayors and local leaders on defense, instead of allowing all of us to aggressively court more business, strengthen our communities and expand prosperity for everyone. And by taking the time to implement the current standard, ozone levels will continue to decline, ensuring clean air for years to come.

There is an old proverb that states, “If you want to go far, go together.” 

Let’s work together to first reach the goals in front of us rather than subject struggling communities to meet arbitrary new requirements. When it comes to regulating our businesses and manufacturers, let’s avoid the failed divisive politics of yesterday. Let’s grow together, in an environmentally responsible manner, now.

Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

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