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Ad blitz in Colorado targets proposed EPA ozone rules

By   /   August 18, 2015  /   No Comments

Photo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A ZONE OF ITS OWN: Proposed new EPA regulations for ozone have triggered a media blitz by the National Manufacturers Association.

By Rob Nikolewski │ Watchdog.org

The people of Colorado, it’s probably safe to say, have never heard so much talk about ozone.

That’s because the National Association of Manufacturers has blanketed the airwaves in the Rocky Mountain State with ads attacking proposed new rules, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama administration are about to finalize.

“Colorado has long been a leader in balancing economic growth with environmental stewardship,” said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons in a statement when the 30-second spots were launched. “For the past three decades, a strong coalition of business and community leaders have worked together to secure real clean air progress. The aim of this ad is to help draw attention to new, costly mandates from Washington that threaten to undermine these state efforts.”

By week’s end, it’s estimated the ads will air 1,000 times in Colorado.

Why the blitz now?

The EPA is expected to issue its final ruling no later than Oct. 1, and the new guideline is expected to crack down more stringently on surface-level ozone — from 75 parts per billion to 65 or 70 parts per billion.

“Rather than Washington punishing states like Colorado, the Obama administration should look to them for leadership on how to attain progress while growing the economy,” Timmons said.

But the EPA says the new ruling is justified and legal.

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set primary air quality standards (health standards) to reduce risk sufficiently to protect public health with an ‘adequate margin of safety,’ including the health of at-risk groups,” an email from EPA to Watchdog.org said.

The agency says the stricter proposed standard was based on “a significantly expanded body of scientific evidence,” including more than 1,000 new studies since the last review ozone standards showing the harmful effects on public health and the environment.

“That significantly expanded body of scientific evidence shows that ozone can cause a number of harmful effects on the respiratory system, including difficulty breathing and inflammation of the airways,” EPA said in its email.

Ground-level ozone is a highly reactive gas that’s not directly emitted into the air. Instead, it occurs through chemical reactions from nitrogen and what are called “volatile organic compounds” that come from natural as well as man-made sources, including chemical plants, power plants, gasoline pumps and motor vehicles.

It’s been estimated that lowering the ozone levels to 65 parts per billion would put more than half the country out of compliance.

Related: Texas environment official says EPA ozone rule just the first step

The new ozone rules have also received push-back on Capitol Hill from some Republicans and red-state Democrats.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin, has introduced a bill aimed at blocking the proposed rule. If passed, his bill would give Congress the right to pass tighten regulations on six pollutants covered by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

“The over-regulation of America’s manufacturing industry is driving away business and innovation, the backbone of our economy,” Grothman said in a statement in June.

Sens. John Thune, R-North Dakota and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, have introduced a bill that would keep the EPA from issuing the proposed tougher limits until 85 percent of the world’s nations can meet the standards. About 200 countries are considered in “non-attainment” category.

Yet another bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, would require EPA to consider costs and achievability before issuing new rules.

“I would like to believe the EPA’s responsibility is the health and welfare of the people of this country,” Eleanor Bravo, Southwest Senior Organizer at Food and Water Watch, an environmental organization in favor of the EPA ozone proposal, told Watchdog.org. “So that gives them right to say to states, ‘No, you cannot burn this and that and cause air pollution.’ ”

But how much would it cost?

NAM commissioned a study from NERA Economic Consulting estimating that the lower ozone levels could cost Colorado up to $19 in lost GDP and 11,000 jobs a year.

The commercials now seen in Colorado will soon move to other states, as well. Variations on the ad have already run in Washington, D.C., and in some national venues.

Watchdog.org wanted to know which states are next in line and how much NAM is spending on the national ad buys, but we didn’t get a response to numerous phone messages.

Update 11:24 a.m.: Greg Bertelsen, director of energy and resources policy at NAM, told Watchdog.org the group’s national media campaign is a “multi-million dollar” effort but would not give a specific number. “We haven’t made any final plans on states” that will see the next rounds of TV ads between now and Oct. 1, when EPA is expected to issue its final ozone rule. “It’s mission-critical time,” Bertelsen said.

Here is the 30-second spot running in Colorado:

[youtube UZeMV3pD2mw]

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Rob formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.