NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stricter Smog Standards Would Be Costly

July 19, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is eyeing smog standards so stringent it could actually force cities to choose between July 4th fireworks and hugely expensive new rules, says Investor's Business Daily.

When the EPA was enacting stricter smog standards in the 1990s, critics said some communities would have to sacrifice things like 4th of July fireworks to comply.  Then-EPA-head Carol Browner dismissed such talk as false.

Tell that to Wichita.

  • Under current standards Wichita is now one day away from breaching the EPA's standard for ozone, the main ingredient in smog.
  • That's because the city's 4th of July fireworks pushed its ozone levels over the EPA limit for the third day this year.
  • One more violation and it could find itself forced to produce an EPA-approved smog-cutting plan that would, as the Wichita Eagle reported, "cost taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars."

Now, the EPA is expected to announce later this month if it'll tighten the smog standard even more.  Doing so would shove still more cities into the "polluted" category and leave many more with just a fireworks display between them and costly EPA mandates.

And make no mistake: The price tag will be big.

  • The EPA puts the cost at upward of $90 billion a year.
  • But the Manufacturers Alliance says it'll be closer to $1 trillion, and will cost millions of jobs.

All this money, however, will do little, if anything, to improve public health.  Joel Schwartz, coauthor of the book "Air Quality in America," notes that "evidence has mounted that ozone at current, historically low levels is causing little or no harm, even in the most polluted areas of the country."

Source: "EPA vs. Fireworks," Investor's Business Daily, July 13, 2011.

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