MEMO to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department: The U.S. economy remains weak as a kitten, unemployment continues to be measured in double figures and a number of economists are worried last year’s recession could be followed by another dip.
It’s the unavoidable context to a pair of potential job killers proffered last week by EPA and Interior. EPA wants to toughen the government’s standard for smog, while Interior is proposing stricter standards for oil and gas exploration on leased public lands. In both cases, the rub is the eternal conflict between a universal desire for a healthier environment and the need for economic health — which also is critically important to Americans’ quality of life. Obviously it’s hard to eat well and afford necessities like health care without good jobs, and too often it seems environmental decisions are made without appropriately considering their potential collateral economic impact. Sen. Jim Inhofe makes this point about EPA’s proposal for a stricter smog standard — changing the allowable concentration of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion, adopted by the Bush administration in 2008, to 60 to 70 parts per billion. The proposal "will keep unemployment high and put another Washington-based regulation in the way of economic recovery,” said Inhofe, R-Tulsa. The proposed standard would put at least 15 Oklahoma counties, including Oklahoma County, out of compliance, Inhofe said, potentially resulting in "severe restrictions on growth and economic development.” EPA estimates the cost of implementing its proposed standard would be between $19 billion and $90 billion by 2020.