This week, the House Manufacturing Caucus heard from panelists regarding proposed changes to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Standards Act and the impact that these proposed changes would have on manufacturing industries across the country.
Who were these panelists? Reed doesn’t say. It is safe to assume that environmentalists were not included in “a variety of manufacturing industry leaders.”
“All Americans agree on the importance of clean air. No one wants to go back to the days of orange skies. However, it is vital, as policy makers, we develop a common sense approach between environmental protections and our economy,” said Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Tom Reed. “If we fail to understand some of the trade-offs, we run the risk of harming our economy or our environment, and really both.”
While Reed’s meaning is obscure, by “common sense” he likely means at no cost to business interests. How environmental regulations, however stringent, might hurt the environment isn’t clear.
In December 2014, the EPA proposed tightening the National Ambient Air Quality standards (NAAQS), part of the Clean Air Standards Act, making the new regulations the most stringent ever. The standards measure the amount of certain types of allowable air pollution which are considered harmful to public health and the environment.
However, the new standard could be the most costly regulation to ever be implemented in the United States. According to a February 2015 study by NERA Economic Consulting commissioned by National Association of Manufacturers, the regulation could cost the U.S. economy roughly $140 billion in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year. The potential labor market impacts represent an average annual loss of employment income equivalent to 1.4 million jobs.
So if manufacturers have to clean up their act, they will compensate by laying off enough employees to make up the cost? I think not.
The Caucus heard reaction to this regulation from a variety of manufacturing industry leaders and the Congressional Research Service to learn more about the challenges that they will face if the proposed rules are adopted. Concerns included the EPA’s own delays in implementing the original rules, lack of available technologies to meet the new standards and the lack of delineation between ambient air pollution and pollution generated by manufacturing facilities.
Ultimately, panelists called on Congress to act to prevent the regulatory changes.
Who would have guessed that Reed and his panelists oppose clean air regulations? The idea of balancing the cost of regulations against their effectiveness seems reasonable, but the balancing should not be biased toward low cost or no cost. There was likely no balance at all on Reed’s panel.
The CRS report cited below gives cost estimates on page 14. The benefits are listed on the same page:
- 2,200 nonfatal heart attacks
- 6,600 hospital and emergency room visits
- 2,980 cases of acute or chronic bronchitis
- 44,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms
- 23,000 cases of aggravated asthma
- 770,000 days when people miss work or school
- 2.6 million days when people must restrict their activities
Is it “common sense” to block environmental regulations at the behest of manufacturers? Evidently it is from Tom Reed’s perspective.