Louisiana Republicans hold briefing to blast potential EPA ozone rule

Three Republican members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation held a briefing Friday in Lake Charles, La., to criticize potential forthcoming regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce allowable ozone levels.

Sen. David Vitter hosted the event, which included Reps. Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany.

Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke about the briefing early Friday on KPLC, a Lake Charles-based television station.

“If the rule happens ... that basically puts the brakes on big industrial projects, highway projects, et cetera, unless a lot of activity happens to reduce ozone elsewhere,” Vitter said. “So it’s a big, big potential brake on the economy, with, as far as I can see, little to no positive health impact.”

An advisory committee of scientists told the EPA in June that it should lower the standard for ground-level ozone to 60 to 70 parts per billion, from the current 75. Ozone, a byproduct of some pollutants from burning fossil fuels, is known to harm the respiratory system and lungs.

The EPA is due in December to decide whether to act on the recommendation. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans and business interests from criticizing the potential rules.

Cassidy said the southwest Louisiana area is benefiting greatly from the oil and natural gas boom, but a reduction in the ozone standard could force businesses to cut back.

“I have frequently said that the EPA’s proposed regulations have the potential to harm Louisiana’s economy, which is to say regulations will destroy jobs,” he said in a statement. “Our first priority should be creating and preserving new jobs.”

The National Association of Manufacturers commissioned a study in July that found that a 60 parts per billion standard would eliminate millions of jobs nationally and cost $2.2 trillion in compliance costs and a $3.4 trillion hit to the economy by 2040.

The EPA is still reviewing the advisory board’s recommendations. The agency has said any economic analysis of a regulation would be premature at best “and not based actual agency actions,” because nothing has actually been proposed. 

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