Oil lobby launches ads against EPA ozone rule

The oil industry is launching a multimedia advertising campaign tomorrow in opposition to the Obama administration’s attempt to restrict allowable concentrations of ozone pollution.

The campaign from the American Petroleum Institute (API) reinforces the industry’s belief that the current ozone standards, set in 2008, are sufficient to protect public health.

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The ads will appear in print, radio, TV and the Web starting Friday, the API said.

The battle over ozone is a high-stakes fight for oil and other industries that produce or use fossil fuels. Ozone, the main component of smog, is a byproduct of pollutants from fossil fuels, and the industry fears states would curb fossil fuel use in order to comply.

“Even as we drive more, use more energy and grow our economy, air pollution is dropping. Ozone levels are down 18 percent,” a voiceover in the TV ad says. “But bureaucrats want to change the current rules safeguarding public health.”

The ad cites a controversial industry conclusion that the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone proposal would be the most expensive regulation ever, and calls it unnecessary.

“Don’t mess with success,” the oil group’s ad says. “Keep the current strict ozone standards.”

The EPA proposed in November to reduce the allowable ozone level to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current 75 parts per billion.

The agency and its supporters say reducing smog would improve public health because ozone contributes to respiratory illnesses.

A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, which the API cited, estimated that the rule could cost up to $1.1 trillion for compliance. The EPA, in contrast, says it would cost up to $16.6 billion, and the benefits could reach $38 billion.

Howard Feldman, API’s senior director of regulatory affairs, said the cost of the ad buy will be “significant.”

API spokesman Carlton Carroll said the ads will focus on the Washington, D.C., area, in order to influence the Obama administration. He declined to be more specific in the campaign’s cost and said it has no end date in mind for it.

The EPA plans to make a final determination on potential ozone changes by Oct. 1, a date it agreed to in a court settlement.