EPA ozone overreach puts Arizona economy at risk

Glenn Hamer and Jay Timmons

March 3, 2016

When manufacturing succeeds, America succeeds. For some, manufacturing may not seem relevant to their daily lives. But in reality, manufacturers are driving Arizona’s—and the country’s—success every day. In 2015, manufacturing accounted for 155,400 jobs in Arizona, paying an average salary of $78,913 per year. Every dollar invested in manufacturing has a multiplier effect of adding another $1.37 to the overall economy. No other sector can claim a bigger positive impact.

It’s an exciting time to be in manufacturing. Modern manufacturing in America is sleek and innovative, with new technologies, affordable energy and world-leading productivity giving the United States a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Unfortunately, manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are being destroyed by overzealous federal regulations that are far out of step with the 21st century economy and environmental realities. One such regulation is EPA’s new ozone rule.

For many parts of Arizona and in states around the country, EPA’s new ozone rule is poised to severely curtail growth and investment. Of the 10 counties where EPA even measures ozone levels, its new regulation would penalize nine—making it impossible for businesses to grow and expand. Why is EPA doing this when just last year only two Arizona counties exceeded the existing federal standard and air quality is on a trajectory of continued improvement? Why is EPA changing the rules on states for the second time in less than a decade?

There is no acceptable answer. On top of that, the EPA wants to blame you for ozone you didn’t cause, and even worse, the EPA admits they can’t be sure they’re measuring ozone sources accurately.

EPA’s stringent regulation holds major metropolitan areas and small rural towns to the same standard, regardless of factors outside of anyone’s control, like geography. In Arizona and in other western states like Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, a disproportionate and growing percentage of ozone is coming from naturally occurring and foreign sources. This “background” ozone, as EPA calls it, accounts for 50 percent or more of the ozone in all nine Arizona counties currently breaking EPA’s new standard. And in some counties, like Cochise, Coconino or Yavapai, EPA says 85 percent or more of the ozone is background.

The EPA recently held a workshop in Phoenix for state air regulators to discuss the problem of background ozone. While continued exploration of these topics may be fine, we should not tag manufacturers with billions of dollars in regulatory costs while disagreements are still being sorted out. 

Arizona lawmakers, at all levels of government, and from both political parties, understand the disadvantage this regulation puts on job creators. Governor Ducey, U.S. Senators Flake and McCain, members of our House delegation, and numerous local mayors and state officials joined hundreds of elected officials across the country in opposing EPA’s new ozone rule. Like manufacturers, these officials want clean air, but they also recognize that EPA has simply gone too far and local economies stand to pay the price.

The Administration should stop its regulatory assault on Arizona and the country’s manufacturing economy. Arizona is making diligent progress on air quality. Moving the goalposts on ozone now will only cost jobs. 

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Jay Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.