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Biden EPA unveils strict air pollution rule that could hamstring American industry


Daily Caller News Foundation

The Biden administration finalized strict new air pollution standards for particulate matter (PM2.5) on Wednesday despite warnings from industrial executives that tightened standards could hamper the American economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5, imposing stringent restrictions despite warnings from industrial executives that tightened NAAQS could severely impact America’s industrial sector. The agency is reducing the annual PM2.5 standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to nine micrograms per cubic matter, or by about 25%.

The agency says that the revised rules will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, and that it will produce up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032. However, more stringent standards could also reduce U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by about $87 billion and imperil up to 311,000 jobs, according to a May 2023 study conducted by Oxford University and commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers.

“The costs of controls applied toward this standard were estimated to be $590 million in 2032,” an EPA spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “EPA’s decisions on the PM NAAQS are based on the best available science and reflect input from the public as well as scientific experts. EPA relied upon the assessment of the science available in the 2020 review and an updated assessment of the scientific evidence on PM as well as an updated policy assessment, both of which were made available for public comment as well as expert review by EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.”

The agency is pushing ahead with the tightened standards, even though EPA data shows that seasonally-adjusted national average PM 2.5 concentration decreased by 42% between 2000 and 2022. American GDP has increased by more than 50% in that same time period, according to the EPA.

About 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 that document include agricultural dust, construction dust and dust from roads.

The agency projects that 99% of American counties will be able to comply with the standard by 2032, but this estimation is in sharp contrast with warnings from trade groups and executives of industrial companies.

“Lowering the current standard so dramatically would create a perverse disincentive for American investment,” according to an October 2023 letter to White House chief of staff Jeff Zients signed by more than 70 industrial executives and trade group representatives. “The EPA’s proposal could force investment in new facilities to foreign countries with less stringent air standards, thereby undermining the administration’s economic and environmental goals … even in areas that would meet the EPA’s proposed standards, current PM2.5 background levels are so close to the proposed standards that no room would be left for new economic development, virtually ensuring severe economic consequences.”

The executives warned further that significantly tightening the standards would undermine implementation of President Joe Biden’s signature bills, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act.

Environmental justice” — effectively the combination of social justice ideology and green policy — also factored into the EPA’s regulation. Beyond tightening the NAAQS, the agency is also changing the PM2.5 monitoring network by adding a new factor that “accounts for proximity of populations at increased risk of PM2.5-related health effects to sources of air pollution” in order to “advance environmental justice,” the agency said.

“This final air quality standard will save lives and make all people healthier, especially within America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said of the final rule. “Cleaner air means that our children have brighter futures, and people can live more productive and active lives, improving our ability to grow and develop as a nation. EPA looks forward to continuing our decades of success in working with states, counties, Tribes, and industry to ensure this critical health standard is implemented effectively to improve the long-term health and productivity of our nation.”

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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