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New ozone regulations could cripple Pennsylvania economy, trade group says

New ozone regulations proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency potentially could destroy a manufacturing resurgence in Pennsylvania and wipe out thousands of jobs gained by the recent Marcellus shale natural gas boom.

That was the message put forth by industry leaders Wednesday who railed against the proposals, which would force companies across the nation to reduce their use of fossil fuels to comply with the new rules.

The EPA is proposing to cut ground-level ozone standards to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current standard of 75 parts per billion set in 2008. Ozone, produced both by transportation vehicles and manufacturers, causes smog and is known to significantly reduce air quality.

The idea, another in a series from President Barack Obama designed to tackle climate change, could be the most costly regulation ever, to the tune of $1.1 trillion to implement, according to a study by the National Association of Manufacturers.

In a conference call Wednesday, the president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association called the proposed EPA regulations “outrageously unreasonable and completely untenable.”

The new levels of permitted ozone would be barely above the levels found naturally occurring in the environment, David Taylor said, and even national parks could be found out of compliance if the proposals are enacted.

“It’s going to put almost every county in Pennsylvania into nonattainment status,” Taylor said. “This is all pain and no gain in Pennsylvania for our quality of life.”

The ramifications of implementing the new rules would be prolific, Taylor said. The manufacturing industry puts $77 billion back into Pennsylvania’s economy on an annual basis and directly employs 500,000 workers on plant floors, not to mention additional jobs in distribution and supply chains.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, also spoke on the conference call and said the new rules could cost $140 billion a year to implement here.

“There is nobody on this (conference) call arguing for so-called dirty air,” Kelly said. “What we want is a fair process and an outcome that makes sense. The EPA proposal is neither fair nor does it exercise any common sense.”

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To make matters worse, Kelly said ozone levels in Pittsburgh are down 38 percent since 1980 and 30 percent nationally since the same time.

“Instead of celebrating this achievement, the EPA has now decided to move the goalposts,” Kelly said.

It’s not just state and national officials who are strongly opposing the new rules. The three Beaver County commissioners sent a joint statement to the EPA in February stating their displeasure with the rules. The commissioners argued that the Marcellus shale gas industry is thriving here, and the new regulations could kill it before it really gets the chance to have long-term benefits.

“The EPA administrators always refer to the ‘latest science’ in justifying new rules,” the statement said. “Beaver County implores you to also factor in the ‘latest real world experiences.’ To do otherwise would be to act irresponsibly.”

Tony Amadio, chairman of the county commissioners, said Wednesday that he opposes the new ozone regulations because of the “negative connotations” that would come with it.

“It’s going to definitely be a huge deterrent to our growth and development here,” he said. “We’re in a phase now of economic explosion.”

Amadio said local ozone levels are as high as they are because of a coal-fired power plant being so close by, but added he’s hopeful that plant will be converted to natural gas-fired furnaces to bring down those levels.

The new EPA regulations could have serious ramifications for the “vast amount of jobs lurking over our heads” in the natural gas industry, which is primarily why he disagrees with them.

Of course, not everyone is opposed to the new proposal.

Russell Zerbo, a spokesman for the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia, said even the current rule of 75 parts per billion doesn’t go far enough in ensuring the health of the population.

“Currently, EPA is saying 75 parts per billion is the rule, but 76 parts per billion is unhealthy for sensitive groups,” Zerbo said. “That’s a problem. The standard for ozone should be firmly within a healthy range.”

He added that air quality isn’t considered “good” until ozone is below 59 parts per billion.

“A standard between 65 and 70 parts per billion is a solid step to getting there,” he said.

For its part, the EPA said on its website that annual costs to implement the rule could reach only $16.6 billion, but health benefits from reduced respiratory illnesses would be worth up to $38 billion.

Obama is expected to finalize the new ozone regulations by Oct. 1.

This article was written by Jared Stonesifer from Beaver County Times, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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