Ozone standards: Good for the public, good for the economy

Today, the EPA limits the concentration of smog to 75 parts per billion. The Agency’s science advisers have unanimously recommended lowering that standard to a range between 60 to 70 parts per billion.

The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) believes the standard should be at the lower end of that range in order to adequately protect the public.

ASBC knows that clean air yields substantial benefits to the economy and to businesses large and small. Our experience has taught us that those benefits consistently outweigh the costs of pollution reductions. The proposed ozone standards, which are supported by compelling scientific evidence, would yield health benefits worth $13 billion to $100 billion annually by 2020.

Better air quality in our communities directly benefits business by reducing sick days, lost productivity and higher health insurance premiums associated with spikes in asthma, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. These costs hit not only business balance sheets, but also state and local budgets. At a time when state budgets are at a breaking point and this country struggles to spur the economy, these are cost related issues that can’t be ignored.

Ozone rules also help to create jobs here at home. Pollution control is a major export industry for the United States. By 2008, the industry was generating approximately $300 billion in revenues, producing $44 billion in exports, and supporting nearly 1.7 million jobs. New regulations will prompt innovation.

The EPA, having postponed issuing the ozone rule several times already, now says it will act "shortly."

We hope so, for a failure to release ozone rule would add to the growing health-related costs for businesses and increase the regulatory uncertainty for business in an already fragile economy.

A truly protective standard would prevent each year as many as 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits, 5,300 heart attacks, more than 2 million missed school days and 420,000 lost work days. The economic value of such reductions in air pollution-related illnesses and deaths will reach almost $2 trillion by 2020, according to the agency.

We believe that EPA’s revised ozone standard will be good for business, good for the economy, and good for public health.  In the interests of reducing the burden of ozone pollution on businesses, reaping the economic benefits of clean air, protecting public health, and fulfilling the Agency’s legal obligations under the Clean Air Act, we strongly urge the Administration to immediately follow through on its plan to finalize its revised ozone standard.

And we call on the Obama Administration to exercise the authority granted the EPA by the landmark Clean Air Act—one of the most effective tools ever devised in our country for protecting our health.

Since its passage in 1970 by large bipartisan majorities in Congress, the Act has sharply reduced pollution from automobiles, industrial smokestacks and utility plants as well as major sources of toxic chemicals, smog and soot.

For all these reasons, we believe the Obama Administration should take the strongest actions possible to prevent illness, save lives and spur economic growth.

Richard Eidlin is the director of Public Policy & Business Engagement at the American Sustainable Business Council.

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