NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Ozone Rules Impose Unnecessary Costs

April 29, 2004

The air isn't getting dirtier. It's getting cleaner. But new rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency impose tougher standards. Experts say they aren't justified by the health benefits they will provide, but that they will impose significant costs.

On April 15, the EPA issued a list of 474 counties that violate the new standards for ground-level ozone, or smog. Roughly 1 in 7 counties in America will be required to redouble their efforts (spend more money) to reduce concentrations of ground level ozone.

Americans have been paying more to reduce smog levels than it is worth to them for some time:

  • The old standard that was based on a one-hour level of 0.120 parts of ozone per million parts (ppm) of air already cost $4 to produce $1 of health benefits.
  • The new eight-hour standard of 0.80 ppm has been estimated to require on the order of $20 to produce $1 of benefits.
  • An eight-hour standard of 0.090 ppm instead of 0.080 ppm would be roughly equivalent to the old one-hour 0.120 ppm standard; this change would have reduced the number of "dirty air" counties by nearly 80 percent.

The original Clean Air Act that says air quality standards must be set at a level that "protects the public health with an adequate margin of safety." This clause has been interpreted to mean that costs cannot be considered when setting standards.

EPA's analysis of ozone health studies estimated that in a population of 1 million, each 100 parts per billion of added ozone might result in one to three additional summertime respiratory hospital admissions per day. This is a large increase in ozone levels and a very small increase in hospital admissions.

Source: Kenneth W. Chilton (Institute for Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University), "Dirty Air Numbers Game," Washington Times, April 29, 2004.


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