Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., cosponsored legislation this week to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing regulations that could cost Wyoming’s economy tens of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs by setting the ground-level ozone standard at an onerously low level.
The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act, led by Senator John Thune, R-S.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., would stem the economic harm from a lower ozone standard by requiring the EPA to focus on the worst areas for air quality before lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone across the country.
NAAQS are outdoor air quality standards that measure the concentration of six main pollutants. The EPA’s new rule would lower the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70ppb. Counties that exceed the ground-level ozone standard are considered non-attainment areas and must implement expensive plans to reach compliance. The CASE Act would require 85 percent of areas currently not meeting the existing 75 ppb standard to meet compliance before the EPA could lower it further.
The proposed standard from the EPA could affect eight counties in Wyoming, including Lincoln County, Sublette County, Albany County, Goshen County, Laramie County, Platte County, Fremont County and Sweetwater County. A National Association of Manufacturers report details the heavy cost of compliance in Wyoming.
According to the EPA’s own estimate when it proposed a similar standard in 2010, the costs of the proposal to the country were estimated to be $19 billion to $90 billion per year. Industry estimates indicate that a 65 ppb standard would lead to 1.4 million fewer jobs per year, reduce annual GDP by $140 billion, and shut down approximately one-third of all coal-fired power plant capacity. This would have a tremendous impact on rural areas, which depend on coal as an affordable and reliable source of energy production.