Public comment sought on proposed ozone rules

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Comments will be accepted through March 17 for proposed ozone rules supporters say are needed to improve air quality, but opponents counter could needlessly cost the economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced plans to tighten its national ambient air quality standards for ground level ozone to at least between 65 parts per million and 70 parts per million —  down from 75 parts per million —  and potentially even lower.

Environmental groups say the revised standards are needed to improve air quality and reduce the emissions of so-called greenhouse gases believed to contribute to climate change.

Opponents, however, say that the new restrictions could cost the U.S. economy between $270 billion and $360 billion annually and cost the Colorado economy up to $18 billion in lost gross state product between 2017 and 2040.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the new regulations could cost businesses in the state upwards of $11 billion in compliance costs and put manufacturing, natural resources and construction jobs at risk.

The association states the tighter standards also would cost consumers in Colorado, including a 15 percent increase in residential electrical rates and a 32 percent increase in residential natural gas costs — as well as costing residents an extra $1 billion to operate vehicles between 2017 and 2014.

Opponents also argue the new targets might not be attainable, pointing out that the EPA has only identified 39 percent of the controls needed to meet the new standards.

Mesa County is one of 20 counties in Colorado monitored for attainment and currently has a measured ozone level of 68 parts per million. The proposed new standards would put Mesa County out of attainment.

For more information on how to comment on the proposed rules, visit the Web site at www.epa.gov/groundlevelozone/how-to-comment.html.