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GOP senators say EPA’s numbers don’t add up on ozone

A pair of Republican senators is asking the Environmental Protection Agency why its ozone rule predicts much higher benefits than a similar plan three years prior.

President Obama rescinded a proposal in 2011 to reduce ground-level ozone that causes smog, citing the economic costs.

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But the cost-benefit analysis of the latest ozone rule, announced in November, is much more favorable, raising the suspicions of Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda NRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers MORE (R-S.D.).

Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is asking with Thune that the EPA provide a cost-benefit analysis that doesn’t include the benefits of reducing other pollutants, which would also be cut as result in “co-benefits.”

“We do not believe the staggering economic costs of a lower standard have improved since 2011,” Inhofe and Thune wrote in a letter. “Rather, the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis is intentionally misleading in its incorporation of additional proposed regulations … which significantly impact forward year ozone forecasts and obfuscate the cost of compliance.”

The EPA’s cost-benefit analysis predicts that other rules, such as the carbon limits for power plants, will help states meet a reduced ozone standard. But it does not count those costs in the ozone rule.

That helped the proposal’s benefits, such as reduced respiratory illnesses, exceed its costs.

Inhofe and Thune are both strong opponents of the ozone proposal, saying it would cost $270 billion per year with little health or environmental benefit.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia defended the proposal, saying industry cost-benefit analyses consistently ignore its health benefits.

The agency is conservative with its analysis, so costs of the rule are likely to be even lower than the up to $15 billion that the EPA estimated, Purchia said.

“The numbers for this proposal are different than the 2010 reconsideration proposal, because we are analyzing changes between different current and proposed standards, air quality and needed emission reductions,” she said.

“Thanks to recent improvements in air quality, and federal and state actions that will come into effect over the next decade, meeting the proposed standards will require fewer emission reductions than the reconsideration, meaning costs will be lower.”

The EPA will respond to Inhofe and Thune in a letter, Purchia said.