Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce held a roundtable discussion on Monday focused on the EPA’s new ozone standards and their implications for the Cincinnati area. Participating in the discussion were representatives of a number of Cincinnati businesses.
In 2008, the federal EPA issued a new ozone standard which would designate any area with ozone levels exceeding 75 parts per billion (ppb) as in nonattainment for federal air quality standards. Under federal law, areas in nonattainment status could potentially be subject to a variety of remedial provisions, including reformulated gasoline and a loss of federal transportation dollars. Controversy over the 2008 standard led to the delay of its final implementation until February 2015.
However, in October 2015, just as states were beginning their efforts to comply with the 2008 ozone standard of 75 ppb, the EPA raised the standard, lowering the permissible amount of ozone to 70 ppb. If fully implemented, the new standard of 70 ppb will likely be one of the most costly regulations in our nation’s history.
“We all want clear air and clean water, and the 2008 standard will lead to the cleanest air we’ve had in a generation,” said Chabot. “However, prematurely raising the standard without first studying the effects of the 2008 standard, is arbitrary at best and could cripple our economy. The new regulation is particularly harmful, because it is targeted at manufacturing, energy and construction, all industries in which we need growth in order to expand our economy and create jobs.”
“The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber agrees with Congressman Chabot that implementing EPA's 2015 ruling on the ground level ozone standard before finalizing the 2008 rule will impact Cincinnati regional businesses, specifically manufacturers, that have been working to achieve the previous standard,” said Jason Kershner, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “We appreciate Congressman Chabot doing what he can in Congress to mitigate this impact on behalf of the region.”
The new 70 ppb ozone standard announced in October could be particularly problematic for the Greater Cincinnati area. Under the 2008 standard of 75 ppb (which again was just implemented a little over a year ago in February 2015), most of Ohio is in compliance, although Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland are classified as being in “marginal nonattainment.” Under that status, the EPA will work with the affected communities to reach attainment status without imposing penalties or remedial provisions.
If the new standard were to be implemented, however, 34 counties in Ohio would fall into nonattainment status. Cincinnati would be significantly impacted, as the entirety of Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren Counties would be considered in nonattainment. The affected four Greater Cincinnati counties generate $92.8 billion in economic activity (which represents 16 percent of Ohio’s GDP), and house nearly 15 percent of the state’s workforce.
Counties in nonattaintment face a number of potential penalties and measures, including stricter emissions control requirements, loss of transportation dollars and more stringent permitting procedures for new construction. Of particular concern is the potential loss of, or restriction on, the state’s access to federal highway funding, which could further delay projects like the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.
The new ozone standard would be unnecessarily detrimental to Hamilton County, which has already been making steady improvements in air quality and is likely to continue to reduce ozone levels as the 2008 standard is enforced.
Given the potentially devastating impact of the October 2015 standard, there are a number of efforts underway in Congress to delay or postpone the implementation of the 70 ppb standard. Congressman Chabot has joined several colleagues in proposing appropriations language that would allow for implementation of the 2008 standard until 2025. Under this language, the 2015 standard could not be enforced until October 26, 2025.
Similar language has been included in H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, of which Chabot is a cosponsor. Delaying implementation of the 2015 standard is an attempt to ease the regulatory burden on states and private entities which are now faced with trying to comply with two standards at once.