$60 billion question: understanding the costs of implementing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards policy.

Author:Kandler, Brian

While the most generally recognizable manifestation of federal ozone regulations is the inspections program for automobile emissions, most notorious for trying to combat smog in areas like Los Angeles, a recent EPA attempt to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone would have large ramifications well beyond "the valley." Despite the fact that southeast Michigan has seen a decrease in emissions due to the tepid economy over the past few years, the current ozone standard, last updated in June of 2008, is still likely to pose challenges. With less than two years for the regulated community to catch up with a standard of 0.075ppm, the federal government is looking for even tougher standards. This push comes without compelling new scientific evidence to explain the necessity of such an immediate dismissal of the standard developed in 2008.


I can imagine many of you wondering, "With everything going on in the economy and our government, what's so important about a new standard for ozone NAAQS?" The answer is $60 billion. If you're assuming that impressive figure represents the cost of implementing the policy, you are wrong. In fact, according to the EPA's Regulatory Impact Analysis, $60 billion represents the amount the costs of implementing the policy could exceed the benefits derived from lower amounts of ozone. This disconnect is staggering. Clearly there must be a compelling reason to account for recommending such a course of action, right? Unfortunately, in this case, the preponderance of health studies does not support further altering the ozone standard. EPA does not even attempt to defend a specific chosen "safe" level of ozone in its proposal, choosing, instead, to invite comment on a range of potential values (0.06-0.07ppm).

First among concerns is how the...

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