Will new EPA ozone standards smother the economy?

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HOUSTON, TX-- So this week the Environmental Protection Agency said America's air is way too smoggy. Not China smoggy, but still no bueno. So they lowered the acceptable standard for ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion.

Ground level ozone given off by cars and power plants is a key component of smog, which stinks up cities and is pretty much toxic to humans, plants and animals. Not to mention its effect on climate change, but let's not go there.

You'd think requiring cleaner air would be a good thing, but not so fast, says the Greater Houston Partnership. "When the standard continues to get lower and lower," says Rebecca Rantz who serves on GHP's air quality committee, "it becomes more expensive because you have ozone or smog that comes not just from local businesses and cars but also from international transport or from diesel engines and trucks that people can't regulate locally."

Why the change now? EPA administrator Gina McCarthy says the 2008 standard was not strict enough and new research shows 72 parts per billion is "the lowest ozone exposure that causes adverse health effects in healthy, exercising adults." Hence, the new 70 PPB standard.

"It's almost like a limbo bar that keeps getting lower and lower," gripes Rantz.

Texas congressman Randy Weber agrees, calling this change "an assault on American job creators" by the Obama administration.  A recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers shows this EPA switch could reduce America`s gross domestic product by $14 billion per year.

So two Republican congressmen, Bob Latta of Ohio and Pete Olson of Texas, have sponsored the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act which would encourage healthy air standards but also economic feasibility, something they say the EPA doesn't consider.

You'd think better air would make us all breathe a little easier, but it seems this new revision could have us choking on the costs.