EPA Misrepresents Benefits of Ozone Restrictions

Published September 26, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overstating the benefits of new rules to further tighten ambient air quality standards regarding ozone, according to a study by NERA Economic Consulting. EPA’s statements about its proposal to cut ground-level ozone, “grossly misrepresent what EPA is actually estimating as the potential benefits of reducing public exposures to ozone,” according to the report. 

President Barack Obama announced on Sep. 2 that he is requesting EPA delay implementing the new restrictions until after the 2012 elections. The new restrictions would nevertheless be implemented in 2013.

Rush to Tighten Standards

Current ground-level ozone restrictions were adopted by the Bush administration in 2008. Under the federal Clean Air Act, EPA must evaluate such rules every five years. The Obama EPA wanted to further tighten ozone standards before the scheduled 2013 review.

In an “updated” analysis, EPA now estimates the tighter rules would save as much as $100 billion per year in medical expenses and missed work days caused by the effect of smog, offsetting about $90 billion in estimated annual costs. The $90 billion in annual costs equates to $900 per U.S. household per year. 

Unsupported Health Claims

To justify the tighter standards, EPA has recently escalated benefit estimates by including alleged benefits of reducing ozone-related mortality and by including benefits from reducing particulate matter. EPA’s science advisors, however, have found no cause-and-effect link between ozone and mortality. 

According to the NERA report, EPA is also improperly claiming the new ozone restrictions will achieve public health benefits that may occur regardless of the new restrictions. 

“EPA’s never-ending tightening of ozone standards is proof their regulatory compulsiveness has no limits,” said Paul Chesser, executive director of the American Tradition Institute. “They need rehab, which in this case would be Congress’s reform of the Clean Air Act—itself a scary proposition.

“The health benefits of reducing ozone limits to 60 ppb are dubious, while the health harms from the billions of dollars in regulatory costs inflicted on the public will be significant. Even President Obama’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, acknowledges that too-costly regulations can have negative impacts on public health,” observed Chesser.

Thomas Tanton ([email protected]) is principal of T2 & Associates, a California-based energy technology and policy consulting group.

Internet Info:

“Summary and Critique of the Benefits Estimates in the RIA for the Ozone NAAQS Reconsideration,” NERA Economic Consulting: http://www.nera.com/nera-files/PUB_Smith_OzoneNAAQS_0711.pdf