NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 23, 2007

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new and unreasonable federal standard for ozone air pollution that is much stricter than the current limit, say H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis and Joel Schwartz, an NCPA E-Team Adjunct Scholar.

A more stringent ozone standard might be worthwhile if current ozone levels posed a significant threat to human health.  However, under the current standard, levels of ozone and the pollutants that combine to form it are declining.  For instance:

  • Levels of NOx (oxides of nitrogen [NO and NO2] produced during combustion) decreased 37 percent between 1980 and 2005.
  • Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) fell 47 percent.
  • Peak 8-hour ozone levels declined 20 percent, and days per year exceeding the 8-hour standard fell 79 percent.

Making the standard stricter will not be cost free:

  • The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that every $7.5 million to $12 million in regulatory costs imposed on the economy results in one life lost.
  • The EPA estimates that attempts to meet the new standards would cost $10 billion to $22 billion per year, making it among the most expensive federal regulations ever.
  • The OMB estimates new ozone regulations would result in at least 833 to 2,933 premature deaths, as Americans' incomes are diverted to complying with the EPA's regulations and away from housing, food, education and other things that improve people's health and welfare.

The newly proposed EPA standard poses a significant risk of public harm with little reason to expect much in the way of benefits.  The EPA should withdraw its proposal to tighten the ozone standard, and acknowledge that the current standard already protects Americans' health with room to spare, say Burnett and Schwartz. 

Source: H. Sterling Burnett and Joel Schwartz, "A Clean Air Regulation Hazardous to Health," Brief Analysis No. 598, National Center for Policy Analysis, October 22, 2007.

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