Thune introduces bill to block most costly and burdensome EPA regulation in history

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Farm Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sept. 17, U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) introduced a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing what is expected to be its most costly regulation in the EPA’s history, setting the ground-level ozone standard at an unprecedented low level. Thune’s bill, The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act, would stem the economic harm from a lower ozone standard by requiring the EPA to focus on the worst areas for air quality before lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone across the country. The expected EPA proposal will slow economic growth and job creation across the country. Thune’s legislation, which is cosponsored by eight of his colleagues, including Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), was originally introduced as an amendment to S. 2262 in May of 2014.

“Lowering the ground-level ozone standard would be a staggering blow to our economy,” said Thune. “The Obama EPA needs to focus its efforts on areas already struggling with attainment, not strangle American industry with a job-killing regulation that could slash our GDP by $270 billion per year and raise energy prices on American families. In South Dakota alone, a lower standard would cost thousands of jobs in manufacturing, mining, and construction. My bill takes a sensible stand against this aggressive EPA and puts American jobs and communities first.”

“We’ve seen that the Obama administration’s war on Kentucky coal has come on many fronts over the last six years,” said McConnell. “Senator Thune’s bill, which I am proud to cosponsor, would stop the EPA from imposing what could be the regulation with the most devastating impact yet on coal jobs.”

NAAQS are outdoor air quality standards that measure the concentration of six main pollutants. In 2008, the permitted level of ground-level ozone or smog was lowered from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to the current 75 ppb. Counties that exceed the ground-level ozone standard are considered non-attainment areas and must implement expensive plans to reach compliance. Currently, 221 counties in 27 states are considered in non-attainment with the current 75 ppb standard.

According to the EPA’s own estimates, the costs of this proposal may reach up to $90 billion per year. Industry estimates indicate that the 60 ppb standard would lead to 2.9 million fewer jobs, and reduce annual GDP by $270 billion, and shut down one-third of all coal-fired power plant capacity. This would have a tremendous impact on rural areas, which depend on coal as an affordable and reliable source of energy production. A National Association of Manufacturers report details the heavy cost of compliance in South Dakota.

Thune’s bill would block the EPA from lowering the NAAQS below 75 ppb until 85 percent of the current non-attainment counties achieve compliance with the existing standard. It would also require the EPA to consider the costs and feasibility of the lower standard, which the EPA currently does not consider. ­­Finally, the bill would prohibit the EPA from using unreliable modeling to expand non-attainment areas to hundreds of rural counties that otherwise would not be impacted by the expensive regulation.

Thune’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi). Representative Pete Olson (R-Texas) is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.