Abbott tells EPA: Don’t cut pollution level
By Ian White
WITH JUST one day before the end of a public comment period, Texas governor Greg Abbott called on the federal environmental protection agency to end its bid for fresher air on Monday, claiming its proposed new regulations would be an economic disaster.
Abbott and 10 other state governors wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, calling on her to “void” proposed changes to the national ambient air quality standard for ozone “in favor of maintaining the current standard of 75 parts per billion”.
The agency wants to cut the threshold above which it takes action to an ozone range of between 65ppb and 70ppb.
The proposed rule was placed on the federal register on December 17 last year, beginning a three-month public-comment period that ended yesterday, Tuesday.
Speaking after dispatching his letter, Abbott said: “The latest regulations proposed by the EPA are a continuation of the federal government’s agenda that aims to stifle economic growth and job creation.
“Instead of working against our nation’s job creators, Washington should be looking for ways to partner with them and create economic opportunity for all.”
A statement issued by the governor’s office said that, in his letter, Abbott “pointed to the unprecedented improvements in Texas’ air quality since the Clean Air Act was signed into law four decades ago and noted that the EPA’s arbitrary standards go to such extremes even some of Texas’ most pristine national parks would not be able to comply.”
The statement said the letter argues that “the NAAQS jettisons free-market policies that promote job growth and economic innovation by imposing an onerous, job crushing standard”.
According to the letter, a study by the think tank Congressional Research Service estimates that the new standards could cause between 76 per cent and 96 per cent of the counties that are monitored for ozone to fail the test,
a condition known as nonattainment.
Abbott’s letter said: “Nonattainment is an economic penalty box so severe that needed economic growth is stunted. In nonattainment areas, any growth is predicated on successfully navigating a bureaucratic maze of federal and state regulators. New development resulting in any new ozone emissions in the area must be offset with emission reductions elsewhere – turning economic development into
a zero-sum game.”
It also claims that infrastructure projects that could be halted by the new regulation could actually help rather than hinder lower ozone levels.
“Roads that would add desperately needed capacity in nonattainment areas would be subject to review by multiple federal agencies – despite the fact that many of these projects may actually reduce ozone emissions by relieving congestion,” the letter said.
As The Post went to press, McCarthy’s reaction to the letter was unknown but EPA made its position clear after putting its proposal up for public debate last year.
The agency said it proposed a stronger NAAQS level for ground-level ozone “based on extensive scientific evidence about ozone’s effects”.
In a statement still visible on its website, it said: “The proposed updates will improve public health protection, particularly for children, the elderly and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. The updates also will improve protection for trees, plants and ecosystems.”
The 10 other states whose governors signed Abbott’s letter are: Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wisconsin.