ENVIRONMENT
08/10/2011 06:41 pm ET Updated Oct 10, 2011

Ozone Pollution And EPA Standards Spark Debate On Both Sides

How important is clean air, really?

There is a polarizing debate taking place between environmentalists and industry lobbyists over the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on smog. Environmentalists want to see tougher laws in place. Lobbyists say they fear for job growth potential, a claim that environmentalists have dubbed as "nonsense."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the EPA has delayed issuing regulations on low-level ozone four times since last year.

HuffPost's Lynne Peeples writes, "This fourth postponement by the Obama administration on the ozone decision comes as little surprise to experts, in large part because of persistent industry and political pressures."

"Emboldened critics in industry and the Republican Party have honed their narrative that regulations kill jobs," writes the Los Angeles Times.

Dow Jones Newswires reports that environmental and public health advocates have filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking the EPA to make a decision "immediately" on ozone pollution. They claim that the EPA's failure to meet the July 29 deadline was "utterly inexcusable."

Scott Segal, a lobbyist from Bracewell & Giuliani whose clients include energy companies, explained to the Los Angeles Times that new ozone standards are "a tough political issue." He claimed that "many states and metropolitan areas will face effective bans on economic growth and job creation at the very time they need it the most."

Segal said that there is "common ground between many state officials, manufacturers, workers, power providers and commentators" who oppose the ozone standards and support limited government.

John Walke, the director of the National Resources Defense Council's Clean Air Program, has publicly challenged Segal to "back up [the] outlandish and false claim" made in the paper. Walke argues that the "absurd" claims from industry lobbyists are coming with greater frequency.

Many studies have shown that ozone pollution is harmful to human health and the environment. But questions remain about the economic impact of mitigating such pollution.

Critics contend that greater regulation will limit economic growth and job creation. The New York Times reported in February that in a study commissioned by Ceres, researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute found close to the opposite to be true.

According to their report, stricter EPA standards (set to be implemented by this summer) would "force the power sector to invest nearly $200 billion to design, build and install equipment between 2010 and 2015," explains The New York Times. The labor hours needed for these projects through 2015 would directly create about 128,000 full-time jobs.

An EPA report released in March found that the 1990 Clean Air Act has had a significant effect on public health. The report found that in 2010 alone, the pollution reductions as a result of the amendments prevented 160,000 cases of premature death and prevented more than 13 million lost work days. The EPA estimates that by 2020, thirty years of the Clean Air Act Amendments will have saved the U.S. two trillion dollars.

A recent government report found that by the end of this decade, healthcare spending will account for one-fifth of the U.S. economy.

Not all business groups are opposed to more stringent regulations. The trucking industry has embraced Obama's recent announcement of stricter emissions standards, albeit "cautiously," reports Environmental Leader.

Given the many Scott Segals of the world, it wil take more than a little support to seriously reduce ozone pollution.