All but two of the nation’s top performing metropolitan area economies — including Baton Rouge — wouldn’t meet ozone limits if the Obama administration moves forward with proposed air quality standards, according to a new report from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
And the economies for all those areas are likely to suffer as a result, BRAC said.
According to BRAC, the Baton Rouge area has seen four major industrial projects valued at more than $7 billion, along with 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, postponed or moved elsewhere since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed lowering the ozone standard. Those investment decisions resulted from the proposed regulation.
“Imagine the losses if it is actually implemented, losses not only for Baton Rouge but for other top-performing metros across the country,” BRAC said. The rankings are based on the Brookings Institution’s assessment of performance in metro areas through the recession and recovery.
BRAC recommends more time be taken to plan a solution that doesn’t harm the regional or national economies.
Wilma Subra, a chemist and adviser to the Louisiana Environmental Network, said BRAC, as usual, is focusing only on the economic impacts and totally ignoring the huge quantity of human health impacts that result from the chemical releases that lead to ozone exposure.
“The agency has been attempting to reduce the ozone standards over many, many, many years. Every time it gets reduced, we get this same story,” Subra said. “And yet the concentrations have been coming down over all these years, but they are still at a level where they cause issues, health impacts, for a large number of people.”
The proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground level ozone rule is designed to lower the current level of 75 parts per billion to a range between 65 and 75 parts per billion, according to BRAC. Failing to meet the new standard would place the metropolitan areas into “nonattainment,” and regulatory consequences would follow.
Those consequences may include a loss of industry and economic development resulting from increased costs, and delays and uncertainties from restrictive permitting requirements; along with a loss of federal highway and transit funding, according to a July report by the National Association of Manufacturers.