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About the only thing worse for Ohio than EPA imposing a stricter ozone standard would be a Michigan win over Ohio State.
According to the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS), 34 counties in Ohio will not meet federal ozone air quality standards if EPA lowers the standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) set in 2008 to somewhere between 65 and 70 ppb.
In July, CRS came to similar conclusions in its analysis of EPA’s proposed ozone rule on the Chicago area, but as I’ll explain in a moment, Ohio's situation is worse than it appears.
According to CRS, Ohio’s biggest metropolitan areas will especially feel the brunt from new ozone regulations. Twelve counties surrounding Cleveland and Cincinnati will be in nonattainment. Combined they account for 46% of Ohio’s GDP and almost 45% of its workforce.
The ozone standard “will result in massive costs imposed on businesses in the Cincinnati area that have been working diligently to meet the 2008 ozone standard,” says the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a 65 ppb standard will cost Ohio 23,000 jobs (or job equivalents) per year, cost every Ohio household $450 annually, and reduce the state’s economy $23 billion by 2040.
Nationally NAM estimates the regulation will cost $140 billion every year, making it the costliest regulations the federal government has ever produced.
Worries about the consequences of a stricter ozone standard go beyond Ohio’s biggest cities. David Berger, mayor of Lima in Allen County, fears it will hurt his city’s economic prospects:
Parts of our nation’s Midwest have not yet recovered from the recession and our substantial losses of manufacturing jobs. Income stagnation prevails and Lima’s median household income at roughly $28,000 per annum remains substantially below the Ohio and national levels. We cannot afford to lose ground!
As I noted above, while the CRS study paints a dire picture, it's not dire enough. According to an analysis for the American Petroleum Institute, if EPA lowers the ozone standard to 65 ppb no county in Ohio will be able to meet it.
Not Cleveland. Not Cincinnati. Not Columbus. Not Toledo. Not Akron. No where.
Every county would have to find ways to reduce ozone levels. Since EPA admits much of the technology to do this hasn't been invented yet, business activity will have to be curtailed. As the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency explains for areas not in attainment:
[Business] expansion plans are postponed and new businesses look elsewhere due to the extra hurdles and burdens required of companies in nonattainment areas.
In addition, as the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy explained, nonattainment areas also risk having transportation projects delayed or cancelled.
All this uncertainty, and for what? EPA acknowledges ozone levels have fallen 18% since 2000.
The U.S. Chamber, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Ohio Black Chamber of Commerce held a forum in Columbus to raise awareness of the harmful effects of EPA’s proposed ozone standard.
“The EPA’s proposed ozone rule would only slowdown the economic recovery even further. We cannot expect small and minority-owned businesses to continue shouldering costly regulatory burdens and still prove resilient,” said National Black Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Harry C. Alford.
“Under tightened standards, Ohio small businesses will likely halt expansion plans and outside development will look to other regions,” added William Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber’s senior vice president, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs. “Those most at risk of being denied future job opportunities are the eight million Ohioans living in urban areas that will be disproportionately impacted by efforts in high population areas to decrease ground ozone levels.”
Stricter regulations would be especially hard on the Cleveland-area, where five of these counties that would be in nonattainment have poverty levels between 14.6% and 19.2%.
For a state like Ohio still trying to lift itself up after the Great Recession, a stricter ozone standard would be a major hit.
Brutus would not be pleased.
Update: I note that the NAM study estimates that a stricter ozone standard will cost Ohio 23,000 job or job equivalents a year.