From Brian Balfour, policy director at the conservative Raleigh-based Civitas Institute:
Job creation is always good news in North Carolina. Unfortunately, opening new factories may soon become a lot harder. With its new proposal to reduce ground-level ozone, the Environmental Protection Agency has launched an effort to put sand in the engines of economic growth. The Obama administration must scrap this plan.
Ground-level ozone is a by-product of emissions from cars, refineries, and manufacturing plants. In high concentrations, it can exacerbate asthma and cause respiratory problems. Atmospheric chemists measure the concentration of pollutants in “parts per billion.” Today, the EPA's threshold for ground-level ozone is 75 ppb.
That standard was set in 2008. Before then, the rule was 80 ppb. In areas where air-quality standards aren't met, state governments must come up with plans to reach and maintain the EPA's standards. Without any question, efforts to comply have helped cut ozone levels by 18 percent since 2000.
But the EPA's new plan to slash the ground-level ozone threshold to 65-70 ppb is too much too soon. It's hard to overstate the economic consequences of the proposal.
Of the 100 counties in North Carolina, just seven violate today's standard. But if the threshold is lowered to 70 ppb, 20 counties will be noncompliant. If the threshold is lowered to 65 ppb, a whopping 77 counties will be noncompliant.
Local officials will find it difficult – if not impossible – to green light infrastructure and factory expansions. Permits will become much harder for everyone to receive.
According to National Economic Research Associates, the EPA's regulation could reduce North Carolina's gross state product by $42 billion over the next 25 years. The state would lose more than 13,000 jobs – and households would have $250 less to spend each year.
The proposal would hit North Carolina's manufacturing sector especially hard.
This sector accounts for more than 20 percent of our gross state product. More than 440,000 North Carolinians work in manufacturing at companies like Smithfield Foods and IBM. These jobs pay well. On average, North Carolinians who work in manufacturing bring home nearly $70,000 annually.
In a word, the EPA's proposal is ill-advised. President Obama must tell regulators to scrap it.