New Ozone Rules: EPA’s Voluntary Jobs Killer

Aug 22, 2011

The White House has once again signaled that it is pivoting back to jobs, and President Obama will reportedly give a “major speech” on job creation in September. Here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where we remain sharply focused on job creation, it is a welcome move. But for the president’s pivot to be meaningful, it needs to be followed by a big step back from onerous regulatory proposals that would kill millions of jobs with no proven benefits to offset this hurt.

What good is it to say you’re for jobs in a speech or a press release when you’re simultaneously issuing policies that will snuff them out?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposal to tighten ozone standards, which by its own estimates will cost up to $90 billion a year in compliance costs, is a perfect example of this dangerous doublespeak. As our economy sputters and millions of Americans struggle to find work, EPA’s voluntary move to impose severe new rules would hobble our recovery. Private sector studies predict that the new standards would cost as many as 7.3 million American jobs by 2020.

Why? Because industries and large manufacturers would see their operating costs skyrocket. Small businesses, from caterers to auto repair shops, would face new regulatory uncertainty and hesitate to invest in equipment or expand their payrolls. Every form of energy—and any product or service relying on fuel for its construction or transport—would become more expensive.

When businesses large and small do the math, they’ll quickly arrive at this bottom line: Soaring compliance costs equal less capital for hiring, business development, and investment. Some companies could take the next step and move operations overseas where they can do business with a lighter regulatory burden.

What makes this proposal even more jaw-dropping is that it is completely unwarranted. EPA’s ozone proposal is not based on worsening conditions of air quality. It hasn’t been mandated by law or court order, and it comes two years ahead of EPA’s own timeline for new ozone rules. Standards were just strengthened several years ago, and the nation’s workers and businesses are still absorbing those costs. 

The U.S. Chamber, along with businesses across the private sector, is urging the administration to rethink these damaging—and completely discretionary—actions. If the president really wants to create jobs, a great way to start is by putting an end to policies that destroy them. Seems like common sense to most of us, but in Washington, sometimes you have to spell it out.

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