When it comes to job creation and economic growth, bureaucrats in Washington are experts at building roadblocks. There’s no doubt their obstructionism, led by President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is taking our economy in the wrong direction. In fact, federal regulation and intervention cost our economy an estimated $1.88 trillion last year alone. Despite their obstructionism, many of North Carolina’s industries have done a tremendous job growing, investing in our state and providing good-paying jobs. But what we see down the road puts us all at risk.
The Obama administration wants to strengthen its hold on the economy by tightening existing standards for ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is created by chemical reactions between sunlight and emissions by cars, trucks, tractors, power plants, factories, and consumer products like spray paint and hair sprays. But it doesn’t only occur from human action — it occurs naturally from plants, fires, lightning and animals. While some of it occurs right here in the United States, we also face a surge of ozone coming from China and Mexico.
According to the EPA’s own data and research, our air is getting cleaner under existing standards, with ozone levels declining more than 30 percent since 1980. Yet, it’s capriciously proposing lowering the national ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 parts per billion and is taking comment on 60 parts per billion. This comes at a time when states are already spending billions of dollars to reduce air pollution and scrambling to be in compliance with the current standard.
This proposed rule is so strict that it’s at or below naturally occurring levels in some of our state and national parks. Take Yellowstone National Park, where peak ozone levels are approximately 67 parts per billion — can you imagine a pristine wilderness retreat not being in compliance with the EPA? It’s mind-boggling. The EPA is refusing to face the fact that this standard is simply unworkable.
A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s new rule will cost America’s economy over $140 billion a year between 2017 and 2040. It could lead to over 1.4 million fewer U.S. jobs, and costs and job loss will be even higher if the EPA finalizes a 60 ppb standard. This could end up being the most expensive, sweeping regulation to date.
The long and short of it is this proposed rule would have a detrimental impact on jobs right here at home. These changes will drive many counties across North Carolina into nonattainment and make it significantly more difficult — if not impossible — for new construction and expansion. In fact, 77 counties in our state would be in noncompliance with the lower EPA standard of 65 parts per billion, leaving local governments to find ways to offset emissions in order to attract and develop new businesses. The EPA has even gone as far as to suggest that communities in violation reduce speed limits, reduce construction hours, restrict the use of backyard barbecues, and even implement idling restrictions for cars. Regulations that waste our time, money and resources are bad as it is, but worse are those that drag down our economy and kill jobs.
Because of this ridiculous red tape, new highway projects or construction of critical infrastructure will face months of delay. If one manufacturer wants to expand, it has to find another one that will cut back. This means all across our great state, power plants would shut down, manufacturing would stop and jobs would be lost, bringing any economic growth to a screeching halt. If, God forbid, the EPA pushes 60 parts per billion, your county wouldn’t be in compliance, putting vital jobs and the livelihood of you and your neighbors at risk.
Last week, I joined my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power to examine the proposed ozone rule. The EPA had nothing to show that convinced me the merits of this proposed rule. Too many folks are out of work, and the last thing our government should be doing is mandating new rules that hinder job creation and economic growth in exchange for uncertain benefits. I’ll continue to fight for North Carolina and against the EPA’s job-killing regulations.
Richard Hudson represents the eighth congressional district, which includes Scotland County.