Numerous elected officials and energy sector experts have sharply criticized the Biden administration’s latest air quality regulation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM2.5), introducing strict restrictions despite warnings from industrial executives that tightened NAAQS could severely impact America’s industrial sector. Critics of the EPA’s decision to tighten the NAAQS say that the move is based on questionable science and that it will hurt the economy more than the agency lets on, among other outcomes.
The agency is reducing the annual PM2.5 standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic matter, or by about 25%. More than 70 industrial executives and trade groups wrote an October 2023 letter to White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients warning that tightened PM2.5 NAAQS could seriously undermine America’s industrial capacity and potentially interfere with implementing projects funded by President Joe Biden’s signature bills, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act.
“Today is a bad day for sound science, scientific integrity, and more importantly, the American people,” Daren Bakst, the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, wrote in response to the final rule. “This premature and poorly considered decision is also another example of the Biden administration wanting to support the most extreme environmental policies despite the tradeoffs and costs, including how it will hurt the financial well-being of American families.”
Notably, EPA data shows that seasonally-adjusted national average PM2.5 concentration decreased by 42% between 2000 and 2022, while American gross domestic product (GDP) has grown by more than 50% in the same time period. The agency told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the new standards are based on the best-available science.
Nearly half of the country’s total primary PM2.5 pollution comes from dust and fires, according to a May 2022 EPA document. Sources of the dust mentioned in the document include agricultural dust, construction dust and dust from roads.
“The Biden administration’s punishing air standard finalized today is simply not realistic to meet. To comply with this rule, states will need to limit development across large areas of the country, threatening manufacturing and energy projects, limiting economic growth, and leaving millions of Americans behind to deal with the negative consequences,” Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said of the rule. “Given the vast majority of PM2.5 emissions come from non-point sources like wildfires, we urged the administration not to go too far or target American businesses by setting its particulate matter standard too low. It’s disappointing to see the EPA is moving ahead without considering these important factors.”
The EPA previously told the DCNF that “the costs of controls applied toward this standard were estimated to be $590 million in 2032,” compared to the $46 billion in “net health benefits” it projects the regulation will drive. These projections are a far cry from the tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs that the tightened standards could cost the American economy, figures derived in a May 2023 study conducted by Oxford University and commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers.
“The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard takes direct aim at manufacturing investment and job creation, in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthening manufacturing in communities all across America,” Jay Timmons, the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said of the regulation. “As counties and cities find themselves in nonattainment, this grave mistake will drive investment away from the United States, derail permitting and weaken the economy for all … Manufacturers will consider all options to reverse this harmful and unnecessary standard, because it is our duty to stand against policies that hold our country back.”
The EPA, meanwhile, is touting the new NAAQS threshold as a win for “environmental justice” and a policy that will support economic development nationwide. Climate activists also roundly commended the final rule.
“The U.S. has made major strides in improving air quality while growing and powering our economy,” Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said of the regulation. “Today’s final rule ignores this progress and incentivizes manufacturing to move their jobs to China away from Louisiana. Congress must step in to fix this new red tape that kills American jobs.”
The EPA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
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