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A stricter EPA ozone standard is bad news for the Windy City, by threatening jobs and making it harder to fight poverty, a report finds.
If EPA lowers the ozone standard to 65 parts per billion (ppb), five of six of the counties surrounding Chicago would not be able to meet that standard, the Center for Regulatory Solutions explains in its report, “EPA’s Proposed Ozone Regulation Puts Chicago Area Jobs at Risk.” Chicago’s six collar counties make up 70% of Illinois’ employment and 73% of the state’s GDP.
Businesses—particularly manufacturers--in these counties would face higher regulatory costs. According a National Association of Manufacturers study, ozone compliance costs under a 65 ppb standard for the entire state of Illinois will be $9 billion annually.
These added costs will impede investment and economic development, leading to fewer jobs. Mark Biel, Executive Director, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois said in a statement, “Reduced development translates into fewer construction jobs; operators at facilities; truckers moving products along with a dramatic slowdown in America’s industrial renaissance.”
With their significant manufacturing bases, McHenry, Lake, and Kane Counties will be hit particularly hard. Two other counties, Cook-- which encompasses Chicago--and DuPage, will find it difficult to find low-cost ways to reduce its ozone levels because they have more service-driven economies.
While questioning EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) cited the study and expressed concerns from his constituents about the stricter standard:
At the hearing, Rep. Hultgren said he was disappointed that EPA would ignore such warnings from local officials, especially when the implementation of the 2008 ozone standard remains unfinished. “I have concerns about an agency that many in my community, and my constituents, see as continually moving the goalposts as an activist, not as a regulator,” Hultgren said. “How does the EPA expect the most financially troubled state in the country to implement these standards when the agency has not and will not consider the full potential cost of implementation.”
At an event in Chicago hosted by the U.S. Chamber, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), and the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Environment, Technology, & Regulatory Affairs spoke about a stricter ozone standard:
This economic strain would adversely impact Illinois jobs, families, and businesses, potentially costing an estimated 34,873 lost jobs per year and a $640 drop in average household consumption per year.
What’s tragic is two of these counties—Cook and Kane—have double-digit poverty rates. Added regulatory costs on industry that inhibit growth will not improve prospects for people already struggling economically.
“EPA’s proposed ozone regulation would impose a severe penalty on manufacturers in the state, which would in turn hobble an already fragile state economy,” the report states, “making it harder for Illinois residents to find quality job opportunities and for those living in poverty to climb out of it.”