EPA ozone proposal already negatively impacting Baton Rouge area business, BRAC analysis shows

NOLA.com / The Times Picayune

The controversy over a proposal to lower the ozone emissions standard is already costing the Baton Rouge area business, a new analysis of Brookings Institution data by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber shows.

Baton Rouge is among 18 of the top 20 performing metro areas in the U.S. with economies being impacted before the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal even goes into effect. If the change would go into effect, these areas would be considered under non-attainment.

“Since the EPA first proposed lowering the ozone standard in December, the Baton Rouge area has seen four major industrial projects totaling 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, and more than $7 billion in capital investment, either put on hold or redirected elsewhere,” BRAC said in a statement Monday (March 2). “These losses are in direct correlation with the uncertainty created by the newly proposed ozone standards rule.”

The EPA proposal would lower the current ozone pollution standards from 75 parts-per-billion to between 65 and 70 parts per billion.

Late last year, Baton Rouge area business leaders shared how the Capitol Region had collectively spent multiple dollars and struggled for many years to meet the current standards, obtaining 75 parts per billion in 2013. That move put the state of Louisiana back in compliance.

BRAC used data from the Brookings Institution’s MetroMonitor report, which tracks the success of the country’s 100 largest metro areas by unemployment rate, gross domestic product output, jobs and home prices. Baton Rouge is ranked 20th in its most recent quarterly report.

The report references Mary Martin, who serves as Energy, Clean Air and Natural Resources Policy counsel for the U.S. Chamber.

“Indeed, severe repercussion result almost immediately from non-attainment designation, such as increased costs to industry, permitting delays, restrictions on expansion, as well as impacts to transportation planning,” Martin said. “There are significant adverse consequences to being designated a non-attainment area, making it substantially harder for a community to attract new business or expand existing facilities. Furthermore, in non-attainment areas, EPA is able to revise existing air permits, which can cause tremendous uncertainty, delays, and increased costs in the permitting process for businesses.”

The Chamber has sternly opposed the proposal, which is backed by President Barack Obama’s administration. “Imagine the losses if it is actually implemented, losses not only for Baton Rouge but for other top-performing metros across the country. The implication is that U.S. government policy toward ozone, as proposed, runs in direct contradiction to America’s economic goals,” the Chamber said. “More time should be taken to plan solutions that avoid the negative effects on the national economy, and especially on the top-performing regional economies in the United States.”

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