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EPA Urged by Oil Group to Delay New Ozone Standards

The Obama administration should postpone issuing restrictive ozone standards that would cost $10 trillion and more than 7 million jobs, the oil and gas industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said today.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the U.S. air-quality limit for ozone, a main ingredient in smog, to 60 to 70 parts per billion, from 75 parts per billion under President George W. Bush in 2008. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said tighter standards are “long overdue” and will help lower health risks.

API faulted the agency for revisiting the rules sooner than five years as required by law. Most U.S. counties that monitor for smog would be unable to meet the new limit and a study co-sponsored by API shows the rule would cost $1 trillion a year from 2020 to 2030, said Howard Feldman, the group’s director of regulatory affairs.

The new rule “may be unattainable short of eliminating all of human activity,” Feldman said today on a conference call with reporters. “EPA should hold up on tightening the ozone standard until the next regular five-year review.”

The Obama administration rejected the group’s estimates about costs and said previous predictions from lobbyists have turned out to be exaggerated.

“This is simply a repetition of a tired dance, where lobbyists get paid a lot of money to make doomsday predictions about the impact of EPA’s efforts to protect Americans’ health,” the agency said today in a statement.

EPA Estimates

The EPA has estimated that the proposed regulations would cost utilities and oil companies as much as $90 billion, and save $13 billion to $100 billion in medical expenses and for missed work days.

The agency, which has delayed issuing final ozone rules, plans to announce the new standard “as soon as it is ready,” Brendan Gilfillan, an EPA spokesman, said today in a statement.

“This is an important and complex rulemaking and EPA is working to ensure we get it right,” Gilfillan said.

The agency also will propose requirements to ensure that state and local governments are able to identify “common sense, cost-effective strategies to protect public health,” he said.

Ozone is formed when chemicals from burning fossil fuels combine with sunlight near the ground. The EPA has said revising the rule would help reduce premature deaths, aggravated asthma and bronchitis cases.

The Washington-based API today also criticized the EPA’s plan to begin regulating carbon-dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, in January.

The Clear Air Act, the law through which the EPA is crafting the rules, “was not meant for regulating greenhouse gases,” Khary Cauthen, API’s director of federal relations, said today.

“We believe the most effective way to reduce emissions is incrementally through new advances in technology,” he said.

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