Friday, January 08, 2010

Yet Another Unfunded EPA Mandate

The EPA is once again pursuing the route of unfunded mandates in demanding states and localities curb smog emissions. In 2008, the Bush Administration lowered the then allowable level of 85 ppm (set by the Clinton Administration in 1999) to 75ppm. This week, the EPA has lowered the allowable level to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppm; the actual level will be set by the Administration after hearings later this year.

The goal is cleaner air, but there's no money anywhere to make it happen.

New Jersey is particularly hard hit by the new regulations because it was already struggling to try and meet the Bush limit and the new levels will mean still more counties will be unable to meet the standards. The EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, was the head of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and under her watch, 11 counties were incapable of meeting the Bush era targets.
The EPA announced the stricter limits on ground-level ozone on Thursday, a move it says will save lives from lung-damaging pollution. Implementing measures to achieve the standard would cost $19 billion to $90 billion, officials said.

The 11 New Jersey counties monitored for ozone are already in violation of the current, more lenient limits. State officials see the new rules as an opportunity.

"This just means we have to keep working harder," said Nancy Wittenberg, assistant commissioner for environmental regulation at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "But these new standards are a good thing because they will bring real health benefits."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency is "stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face. Smog poses a serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease.

"It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country," Jackson said.
Yet, she now thinks that the state can meet the more stringent levels? Where is the money coming from to make that happen?

Her efforts while at the state level were incapable of reducing the number of counties in violation of the more lenient levels, and yet we're going to see an improvement when there's less money to spend and a more stringent (and amorphous) level?

This is a classic definition of an unfunded mandate where the compliance costs are heaped upon states and localities to clean up the mess, some of which may not actually be locally created - since prevailing winds often carry particulates and pollution from elsewhere upwind.

Meanwhile, many reports spin the latest change as that the Bush Administration was somehow lax on the environment, even though the Bush Administration actually lowered the allowable limit that was previously set by the Clinton Administration. These reports leave out the context.

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