WASHINGTON - A new ozone rule released by the Environmental Protection Agency to improve health and well-being will lead to higher energy costs, local congressional representatives said.
The rule amends the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. Generally a problem in the spring and summer months, pollution such as that from automobiles, power and industrial plants react with sunlight and creates ozone at the ground level, which has been tied to respiratory diseases including emphysema and asthma.
"Put simply - ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a press release on Thursday. "Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today's action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children's health."
But the rule will increase the price of energy, stop job growth and hinder economic opportunities by setting a standard that is unrealistic, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
"I've always said we need to strike a balance between the environment and the economy," he said.
The rule would have a devastating impact on the economy, Manchin said. Lowering the standard will cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, he said.
"We need the EPA and our federal government to work with us as allies, not as adversaries who continually impose burdensome regulations and then move the goalposts before we even have a chance to comply," he said.
A bill, the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act, was proposed this year by Manchin and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to block stricter ozone standards. It requires the EPA to focus on the worst areas for air quality before lowering ground-level ozone levels.
The new ozone standard will jeopardize the creation of new manufacturing jobs, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said.
"EPA continues to hold America back with its onerous regulations and deeply flawed permitting process for new and expanding manufacturing facilities," she said.
Capito pointed out the standard for ground-level ozone was reduced in 2008 from 84 ppb to 75 ppb. Most of the country doesn't meet the 2008 standard including nine in West Virginia, Jefferson, Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Brook, Fayette, Hancock, Berkeley and Raleigh.
Capito in May also introduced a bill, the Promoting New Manufacturing Act, to reduce costly permitting delays caused by EPA regulations such as the ozone standard, she said. She also co-sponsored of the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., called it a radical agenda at the expense of West Virginia jobs.
"We have already seen how committed the EPA is to destroying West Virginia's coal jobs and now the EPA is aggressively pursuing attacks on our manufactures and factories," he said.