The air quality in North Carolina is improving — good news. And yet, if the EPA gets its way, a proposed regulation could throw virtually all of North Carolina out of compliance with air quality regulations. JLF’s Roy Cordato explains what is amiss and what it will cost us.

The reason why there has been little or no discussion of smog this season is that on 45 monitors throughout the state there have been, so far, no high-ozone days this season. And the latest report, which includes data through Aug. 24, continues the trend.

In this case, no news for the last 41/2 months is good news. It should be noted that last year there was only one high-ozone day for the entire season.

But don’t get too comfortable; all this could change very soon. Over the next few years, nearly all regions of North Carolina could start to experience dozens of high-ozone days and be thrown out of compliance with EPA standards.

This could result in tens of millions of dollars in costs for these localities and businesses, workers, and consumers throughout the state. And, believe it or not, none of this will have anything to do with air quality getting worse. In fact, it is quite likely that air quality in the state will continue to improve as it has for the past three decades.

The reason for this possible coming hardship is that the EPA is threatening to tighten its standards dramatically — from a maximum of 75 ppb to possibly as low as 60. For some locations, this may be below natural background levels. (That’s right, certain background levels of ozone occur naturally.) In the next few months, the EPA is expected to come out with a new standard, and it is eyeing 60 ppb as a possible maximum.

As reported by Daren Bakst, writing for the Heritage Foundation, the EPA’s own estimates are that compliance with this standard would cost the country over $90 billion. Given the source, this should be taken as an “at least,” not as an “at most.”

A report by NERA Economic Consulting, commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, looks much more dismal. It argues that this would be “the most costly regulation in history.”

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