Smog Rules Could Cost Industry $90B–and Save $100B on Health Costs

By Brett Israel | January 8, 2010 3:20 pm

la-smog-webThe Environmental Protection Agency has announced its proposal to toughen up the standards for smog-causing pollutants, which would replace the standards set during the Bush administration.

The Obama administration’s proposal sets a primary standard for ground-level ozone of no more than 0.060 to 0.070 parts per million, to be phased in over two decades. Regions with the worst smog pollution, including much of the Northeast, Southern and Central California and the Chicago and Houston areas, would have more time than other areas to come into compliance [The New York Times]. The previous standard was 0.075 parts per million, set in 2008 despite government scientists’ objection that it was not strict enough. Smog is formed when a stew of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and methane is baked in sunlight.

The new standard won’t be cheap, but proponents say it will save money, and lives, in the long run. The EPA estimates that by 2020 the proposal will cost $19 billion to $90 billion to implement and will yield health benefits worth $13 billion to $100 billion. The proposal would result in 1,500 to 12,000 avoided premature deaths by 2020, though the precise number depends on what limit the agency adopts [Washington Post]. Smog is linked to a wide variety of heart and respiratory diseases. Currently, a majority of the counties that are required to monitor ozone levels would not meet the new standard. If the 0.070 limit is adopted, 515 of the 675 counties that monitor ozone levels would be out of compliance.

Factories, oil and gas refineries, and power companies would be required to clean up their acts. “Coal-burning power plants are the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” John Walke, a clean air lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said about the industry that could get hit hardest. He said airplanes, ships, locomotives and off-road vehicles would also be targeted, perhaps more than automobiles, which have had to cut pollution since the 1970s [Reuters].

If approved, the new rules wouldn’t be phased in for several years. Whatever limit is selected, by the end of 2013, states must submit plans showing how areas that do not attain the new standard will be brought into compliance. The new rules would be phased in between 2014 and 2031, with deadlines depending on how dirty the air is in a given region [The New York Times]. The EPA will announce the new standard at the end of a 60 period to allow for public comment.

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Image: flickr / jonlclark

  • Fatkid

    If there isn’t a way to force compliance with planet saving policies and technologies, we will keep passing the buck to future generations until there are none left to pay the tab.

    I can already write off tollways that should’ve been free now and social security I’ve bought into. It’d be nice to at least have a blue sky to look at when I am an 83 year old commuter.

  • Cory

    Lol, “between $13 billion and $100 billion”. Man, government sucks.

  • Adrian

    This is good news. It would reduce many respiratory illness. It saves so may lives and also 100 billion on health care.

  • JMW

    @Adrian #3. In the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, won’t saving all those leaves actually increase green house gasses? After all, all these people who will live will require food, jobs, transportation, housing – and all the cows/pigs/chickens/people farting, all the cars, buses, trains & planes moving, all the office buildlings, factories and homes being built all have an impact on the carbon.

    I know, I know…when I volunteer to kill myself to remove my carbon footprint from the world, I can complain about other people.

    But it makes me wonder if the government scientists who did this study included in their costs the impacts of having the extra people around.

  • Fatkid

    jmw~ whuh? that’s like not cleaning your toilet because you know your fat Aunt Stella’s coming over and is gonna use it. Don’t shovel your sidewalk, people will just end up walking all over it. It’s better if they walk across the street.


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