By Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

The Environmental Protection Agency is the “Air Police” for the federal government. It enforces regulations and rules that are self-set and approved by Congress. One area of enforcement is the ozone, which is matter floating through the air we breathe. The measurement is in “Parts per Billion” or ppb.

In March 2008, the ppb standard was set at 75 parts per billion. Any area with less than 75 ppb is considered in attainment and economic growth such as construction, development, infrastructure, etc. can proceed. Any area with more than 75 ppb is considered non-attainment. A designation of “non-attainment” – when an area is not meeting the ozone standards – means no economic development, no new construction, and no job creation in that area. In areas classified as in non-attainment, EPA can override state permit decisions, such as upgrading new or existing facilities via the most effective emission reduction technologies, without consideration of costs and federally-supported highway and transportation projects can be suspended.

The good news is that many localities have come under attainment and growth is now being realized. The bad news is that the EPA wants to stretch its muscle and change the rules. It wants to lower the standard from 75 ppb to a new and maybe impossible 65 ppb. If the EPA has its way (the way of environmental extremists), most of our nation will have to close down any construction and economic activity underway. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, such an extreme move would reduce our Gross Domestic Product by $140 billion, resulting in 1.4 million fewer jobs, and cost the average U. S. household $830 in lost consumption, with Blacks being the last hired and first fired as usual for each year from 2017 through 2040.

One local area’s business community is speaking out about already feeling the negative impact of EPA’s ozone proposal. Baton Rouge, La. and the surrounding area is home to many successful manufacturing and industrial facilities that help drive the economic livelihood of the area and the country as a whole. In recent years, the state has worked hard to decrease ozone levels in Baton Rouge. Following a period of non-attainment, Baton Rouge was found to be in compliance with the current 75 ppb ozone standard in April 2014.

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge has been experiencing an economic boom in the last few years with a great deal of the U.S. manufacturing renaissance taking place there. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently ranked Baton Rouge among the top 10 fastest-growing metropolitan, as measured by percentage gains in gross domestic product. In 2014, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce worked with four chemical manufacturers, who were considering significant investments in the area. Two of the companies executed purchase agreements on sizable industrial locations with the intent to develop them.

Unfortunately, all four companies later decided to search elsewhere for their investments. The companies all indicated that EPA’s ozone proposal with the threat of the ozone standard being lowered and the area falling back into non-attainment influenced their decisions to pull the plug on the projects in the Baton Rouge area.

Those four lost projects translated directly into lost dollars for the Baton Rouge area, its business community and its residents. According to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the projects would have resulted in $86 million in wages annually for the local economy. That does not include any indirect investment or payroll that likely would have been created by the investments and project developments. Additionally, these projects would have included foreign investment – something that the U.S. is always eager to secure.

According to the Brookings Institution, Baton Rouge is among the 20 top-performing metropolitan economies in the country. Of those 20 economies, all but two of them would be in non-attainment were EPA to lower the ozone standard to 65 ppb. In other words, the growth and development being experienced by some of our country’s most economically prosperous areas are being threatened by EPA’s ozone proposal. The four lost projects in Baton Rouge are only the tip of the iceberg. Without a doubt, there have been others, and there will be more.

Will your community be next? There is a good chance and that is going to hurt your quality of life and may cause you unemployment and hopelessness. My people, it is time to fight! We must tell the EPA “Hold on!” How do we fight? The Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce will “draw the line” in Chicago, IL on June 29. We will host a half-day workshop on this ozone issue and what it means to Illinois. From there we will move to Missouri and then to Ohio. Our road show begins!

If you want us to come to your locality and help you fight, contact us at your earliest convenience. It is all about your economic future.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website:www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.


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