By at 1 July, 2014, 8:35 am

By Karen Kerrigan-

CASAC Fails to Report on Economic Impacts of Meeting Stricter Standard

The Obama Administration and its regulatory agencies have, as a matter of conscious practice, put their own whims and preferences above the law when regulating the American economy. Now EPA’s science advisors, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), are doing the same. Last week, they recommended more burdensome standards for ozone, while snubbing the legal requirement to report on the costs of implementing stricter standards.CRS Logo

This is no small matter. As I’ve noted before, EPA has estimated that a tighter ozone standard could cost the economy up to $90 billion a year. In its June 26th letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, CASAC said many things, but most important, they provide EPA cover to lower the existing ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 ppb or even 60 ppb. Those levels could be ruinous to now-flourishing sectors of the economy, most notably energy and manufacturing.

While it’s true that the EPA Administrator cannot consider costs when setting ambient air quality standards, CASAC, according to the plain language of the Clean Air Act (CAA), “shall also…advise the Administrator of any adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects which may result from various strategies for attainment and maintenance of such national ambient air quality standards.” [Emphasis added] CASAC’s charter has nearly identical language.

If CASAC believes no such effects will occur, then it must say so. But they said nothing. CASAC Chair Christopher Frey noted in his letter to McCarthy that “cost and implementation issues are not relevant or allowable considerations in setting or revising a NAAQS.” True enough. He then acknowledged CASAC’s legal obligation, noted above, under section 109(d) of the CAA. But instead of advising the Administrator on the obvious “adverse…economic effects” that will result from lower ozone standards, he wrote that “the CASAC would be receptive to a request from EPA to review EPA analyses” of adverse effects stemming from policies designed to meet new standards. [Emphasis added]

This is not advice. And merely noting CASAC’s receptivity to review EPA analysis is not what the law requires. Such posturing is as unfortunate as it is unsurprising. Jeff Holmstead, former EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, noted that “until recently, most CASAC members were not aware that they have a statutory obligation to advise the head of EPA on certain issues. As far as I know, CASAC had never fulfilled this [109(d)] requirement as it relates to the ozone standard or any other.”

Chairman Frey has long held a dismissive attitude toward this requirement. In remarks delivered to an industry association in January, he said 109(d) amounts to a “separate activity,” which is “not really part of the review cycle for any existing NAAQS.” At the March CASAC ozone review meeting, Frey said advising on implementation issues was something that CASAC “simply can’t do” as part of its deliberations.

One would hope EPA’s science advisors would follow the law and be transparent about the substantial burdens states will assume if EPA lowers existing ozone standards. More regulations, more fees, more restrictions are coming—all in the name of meeting standards based on dubious science—science, by the way, that EPA won’t share with the general public.

It’s time for greater transparency at CASAC and EPA. And it’s time for regulators as well as their advisors to follow the law in the interest of consumers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs, who in the end will be the ones paying for EPA’s $90 billion decision.

Karen Kerrigan is President & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. The Center for Regulatory Solutions is a project of SBE Council. 

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