By Daren Bakst and Nicolas Loris
Dare to reform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and you are sure to be attacked. It's as certain as death, taxes or EPA regulatory overreach.
Case in point: Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) recently introduced a bill to address egregious EPA waste and abuse. Immediately, he was denounced as trying to "gut" the agency. In reality, Johnson's bill is a modest attempt to keep the EPA from gutting the economy and wasting taxpayer dollars.
The Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act of 2015 takes on some specific and serious problems. It would prohibit the agency from using funds to issue a new ozone standard. States have just begun implementing the latest standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb), which was issued in 2008. Now, the EPA wants to make the standard even more stringent.
When nearly 40 percent of the nation's population lives in areas that haven't met the current standard, it's premature to adopt an even more stringent standard. It would be exorbitantly expensive, too. The National Association of Manufacturers argues that if the standard is dropped to 65 ppb, it would be the single costliest regulation in American history.
And the benefits of a tighter standard are far from clear. Much of the alleged benefits the EPA ascribes to a stricter standard have nothing to do with an actual reduction in ozone. Rather, it cites benefits accruing from reductions in fine particulate matter. Moreover, the agency's limited analysis fails to account for the relationship between health and wealth. Lost jobs and less disposable income are not just economic costs; they can lead to significant health problems, particularly among the poor.