Opening Statement for Ozone Legislative Hearing on S. 638, S. 751, and S. 640
The first hearing I ever held as Chairman of the Clean Air Subcommittee was in 1997 on the ozone standard. It was the first of seven hearings held on what was then referred to as “the single largest environmental regulation ever proposed.” Today we are again conducting oversight of the EPA and the proposed ozone standard, which is set between 65 and 70 parts per billion. We will hear directly from officials responsible for implementing and administering EPA’s new standard. I want to welcome Judge-Executive Gary Moore, from Boone County, Kentucky; County Commissioner Mike McKee, from Uintah County, Utah; and Kanti Srikanth who is the Director of Transportation Planning for the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.
We are also here to examine three pieces of legislation. The first bill, sponsored by Senator Thune and Senator Manchin, requires 85% of the counties that haven’t met the 2008 standard to achieve it before EPA can lower the standard. Congressman Pete Olson, who has introduced the House version of this bill, is also with us today. Additionally, Senator Flake is introducing two bills. The first extends EPA’s existing timeline to review NAAQS to every 10 years. The second amends the Exceptional Events rule, which states rely on when events out of human control contribute to ozone readings exceeding the allowed level. All three of these are commonsense, good government bills that strengthen the NAAQS setting process while advancing the trend of improved air quality.
EPA’s ozone proposal is the most expensive regulation in history with projected costs of $1.7 trillion and 1.4 million lost jobs. Up to 67% of counties fail to meet the proposed lower standards, which means if this rule goes forward, they will face a legacy of EPA regulatory oversight, stiff federal penalties, lost highway dollars, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and increased costs to businesses. The costs and burdens associated with expanding roads and bridges will be exponential. Further concerning is that EPA’s proposal does not even account for high levels of naturally-occurring ozone present or transported in many parts of the country, which is why pristine national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone would be placed in nonattainment status.
Looking at my home state of Oklahoma, not a single county violates the current standard, but under this new standard, the whole state will be in violation. We have spent a significant amount of time and valuable state resources to comply with the 2008 standard, but will have to spend an additional $35 billion to meet EPA’s new standard. Each household will lose an average of $900 a year, and the state will lose 35,503 jobs with $18 billion in lost GDP. Every state is facing similar losses.
In 2011, EPA proposed a standard remarkably similar to the one we’re discussing today; fortunately, the President rejected it then because, as he said, our economy couldn’t handle the burden of its substantial price tag. Has our economy really improved so much in the last few years that we can easily absorb a $1.7 trillion price tag? I would say no and even Steve Beshear, the Democrat Governor of Kentucky, agrees. He has pledged to reduce carbon emissions in his state by 80% by 2050, yet he wrote President Obama and asked him to keep the ozone standard where it is because of the detrimental impact it would have on Kentucky job creators and manufacturers. I’d like to submit that letter for the record.
I have always stood in favor of clean air – I was an original cosponsor of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and Clear Skies – but this proposal, like many of the EPA’s recent proposals, will have negligible environmental benefits, is based on questionable health benefits and comes with unequivocal economic costs. Instead of creating a new regime of costly, job-killing mandates, the EPA should focus its efforts on helping counties that have not yet met the 1997 or the 2008 standards. A new standard at this time is not only irresponsible, but also impractical and economically destructive.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and thank my colleagues for their leadership on this issue.
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