A large coalition of industry groups are calling on the Biden administration to rescind its recent proposal to tighten air-quality standards, saying the action would devastate the economy.
The coalition — led by the Chamber of Commerce and joined by 33 other groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), American Farm Bureau Federation and American Petroleum Institute — penned a letter Thursday to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, warning about the consequences of the proposed regulations.
“Lowering standards further would harm America’s ability to revitalize our supply chains and manufacturing, as well as to restore and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure,” the groups stated in the letter. “In addition, the current reconsideration is discretionary and not required by the Clean Air Act as the existing standards were just reviewed in 2020.”
“The inability to comply with these near-background level standards could lead to consequences such as onerous permitting requirements that would freeze manufacturing and supply chain investments, as well as other unintended consequences,” they continued.
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In early January, the EPA released the proposed air quality standards, which seek to curb fine particles, or soot, in an effort to protect Americans from health effects like asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death.
The regulations would lower the annual PM2.5 standard from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a level between 9 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter. The EPA said it would also take feedback on a reduction to 8 micrograms per cubic meter.
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PM2.5 is a fine particulate matter often produced via industrial processes. However, industry has argued the current standards of 12 micrograms per cubic meter are stringent enough and manufacturers have worked to improve technology, lowering emissions in recent years.
“America’s air continues to improve,” the letter Thursday stated. “The business community has worked with EPA and its state partners to lower fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by 42 percent since 2000 and is making significant progress even with the steady growth in the U.S. economy, population, and energy use.”
“Thanks to innovation and investment, new emissions control technologies and solutions have been widely adopted to improve air quality.”
According to the letter, more than 84% of PM2.5 emissions are generated from non-point sources such as fires and unpaved roads. Industrial sources and power plants, which are already highly regulated, are the sources of 16% of such emissions, it added.
The letter also stated that the regulations could damper domestic investments in industrial activities like “mining and processing of critical minerals for priorities like renewable energy, semiconductor manufacturing, and energy development for us and our allies.”
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A May study conducted by Oxford Economics and commissioned by NAM concluded that the regulations would threaten between $162.4 and $197.4 billion of economic activity while putting 852,100 to 973,900 current jobs at risk.
“Improving air quality in the U.S. is a top priority for manufacturers, and we’ve worked for years to make progress in delivering some of the cleanest manufacturing processes in the world,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said at the time.
“We need to let manufacturers do what they do best: innovate and deploy modern technologies to protect the environment, while creating jobs and strengthening the economy.”
The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.