Environmental Permitting

Costs and Benefits of EPA’s Proposed Ozone Standards

Costs and Benefits of EPA’s Proposed Ozone Standards

Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, the EPA claims harmful air pollution has been reduced “by about 70% while the U.S. economy has more than tripled,” with ground-level ozone dropping about 33% since 1980. Overall, 90% of the areas in the United States that were designated as nonattainment areas in 1997 have now met applicable standards.

However, according to the EPA, “research also shows that temperature and other meteorological changes associated with the changing climate have the potential to offset some of the future improvements in ozone air quality, along with public health improvements that would result—underscoring the need to address both ozone and climate change.” But there are both costs and benefits that must be weighed with all regulations.

Although by law the EPA cannot consider costs in determining levels and setting standards “to inform the public,” it does analyze the benefits and costs of implementing the standards as required by Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget. In performing these analyses, the EPA notes that it analyzed costs and benefits for California separately, “because several areas in California are not required to meet the existing standard by 2025 and may not be required to meet a revised standard until sometime between 2032 and 2037.” As a result, some counties in California “likely would have attainment dates ranging from 2032 to late 2037.” Here are the costs and benefits assessed by the EPA.

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Costs (Excluding California)

Nationally, costs for the proposed ozone standards are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 at a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion at a standard of 65 ppb.

Benefits (Excluding California)

Reducing pollution levels to meet the proposed ozone standards would reduce both ozone and particle pollution. By meeting these reductions by 2025, the EPA estimates the nation will realize annual health benefits of $6.4 to $13 billion annually for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually for a standard of 65 ppb. These benefits are assessed as “the value of preventing harm to health that includes, among other effects:

  • 710 to 4,300 premature deaths;
  • 790 to 2,300 cases of acute bronchitis in children;
  • 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits;
  • 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks in children;
  • 65,000 to 180,000 days when people miss work; and
  • 330,000 to 1 million days when children miss school.”

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California Costs

In California, the estimated costs of meeting the proposed standards post-2025 are $800 million for a standard of 70 ppb, and $1.6 billion for a standard of 65 ppb.

California Benefits

In California, the benefits of meeting the proposed standards add to the nationwide benefits after 2025, with the value ranging from an estimated $1.1 to $2 billion at a standard of 70 ppb to $2.2 to $4.1 billion for a standard of 65 ppb. “This includes the value of preventing, among other effects:

  • 110 to 430 premature deaths;
  • 67 to 130 cases of acute bronchitis in children;
  • 340 to 740 asthma-related emergency room visits;
  • 99,000 to 210,000 asthma attacks in children;
  • 110,000 to 230,000 days when children school; and
  • 5,500 to 11,000 days when people miss work.”

It should also be noted that other existing standards and proposed rules also have/may have an impact on ground-level ozone such as those regulating ozone precursors like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and regulations and/or standards for power plants and other stationary sources, interstate air pollution transport, and vehicle emissions and fuels.


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