With all the attention regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulation of CO2, there has been little attention to another of the agency's current rulemaking efforts regarding ozone.

Ozone is formed from vehicles and smokestack emissions mixing in the air in the presence of sunlight, forming smog. Arguably the new and much stricter standards that the EPA is proposing for ozone could have nearly as big an effect on the American economy as the CO2 regulations. The ozone standard was made more stringent during the Clinton administration and was adjusted downward once again during the Bush administration. The current standard is 0.075 part per million measured over an 8 hour average. The EPA is proposing to drop the standard to between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm and for the first time implement a secondary standard of 7 to 15 ppm for the entire season. The estimated results of this rulemaking would be to place between 76 to 96 percent of the counties currently monitored in the country into non-compliance.

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A non-compliance designation for ozone carries serious economic ramifications, including much stricter permitting standards for factories and utilities, no-growth limitations, and potential loss of federal highway funding. If the EPA chooses the low end of the proposed regulatory range for ozone, they are essentially requiring the state of Michigan to not exceed what amounts to background levels. In other words, if Michigan was to shut down every factory and not allow any vehicles to operate many counties in the state would still be out of compliance with the new standard due to ozone that would drift into the state from places like Chicago.

If the EPA persists with such a draconian rulemaking as currently proposed for ozone, the state should not attempt to comply by proposing a state plan for compliance that would be all but impossible to implement. Rather, Michigan should let the feds come up with their own implementation plan which is allowed under the Clean Air Act. I predict federal requirements would be so strict they would collapse under their own weight.

When federal air requirements become so strict that everyone is out of compliance, then in effect no one is out of compliance.