Twice this year, President Obama asked federal agencies to review regulations to ensure that they are not interfering with efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy. In January, he signed an executive order directing agencies to use the "least burdensome tools" that take "into account benefits and cost" and "[promote] economic growth … and job creation."
Either the Environmental Protection Agency didn't get the memo or it was lost under the growing stack of regulations the agency is advancing at record speed.
Last week, the EPA said it would soon release updated ozone regulations that are going to kill jobs and impose substantial costs on the U.S. economy—at least $90 billion, by its own estimates, and $1 trillion annually between 2020 and 2030 according to industry estimates.
"Good" ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from ultraviolet radiation, but at ground level it can affect human health and is the main constituent of urban smog. This "bad" ozone comes mostly from vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, but can also come from natural sources.
The EPA has already missed four self-imposed deadlines (most recently last month) to impose new standards. And environmentalists are not happy about this. Earthjustice and other environmental groups have demanded that the EPA immediately release their rule, stating that the agency "has run out of excuses for any more stalling on this decision."
But this is hubris. EPA is under no obligation to develop new regulations at this time. The Clean Air Act—the legal basis for most federal air quality regulations—requires the EPA to review national air quality standards every five years. If they find that current thresholds are detrimental to health, the EPA can go through the process of setting a new, scientifically-backed standard. The last time these standards were reviewed was three years ago. Legally, EPA is not obliged to initiate a review for another two years.
So, why is it doing so now? Is smog on the rise? Nope. According to the EPA, ozone levels have been falling year after year. Since 1980, ozone emissions have fallen by nearly 50 percent.