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Manufacturing has seen better days.

Over the last year, New York’s manufacturers posted the largest job losses of any sector here. And a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that statewide factory activity fell in June to its lowest level in over two years.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency is about to make matters worse. The agency has its sights on “ground-level ozone,” a gas that’s created from car exhaust, factories, and gasoline vapors. High concentrations of ozone can cause respiratory problems.

Even though ground-level ozone is at the lowest level in decades, the EPA has put forward a draconian new rule that would cost our state economy billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs. It must be scrapped.

Thanks to previous environmental efforts, the United States has made extraordinary progress in cutting ozone levels over the last few decades. Between 1980 and 2013, in fact, concentrations of ground-level ozone fell by a third across the country.

These and other improvements in air quality have helped reduce the incidence of everything from chronic bronchitis to infant mortality and hospital admissions.

In 2008, the EPA set a stringent new standard for ground-level ozone. It has yet to be fully implemented. In June, the agency admitted that 24 states have failed to adopt these regulations. Now, the EPA wants to slash allowable ozone level even further.

This new rule isn’t likely to deliver any health benefits. As health Julie E. Goodman and Sonja Sax have explained, “the overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates lowering the current ozone standard will not provide added health benefits beyond those achieved with the current standard.”

On the other hand, this rule would undermine the economy by choking off investment and smothering job growth.

At present, nearly 80 percent of New York’s counties have ozone concentrations that exceed the EPA’s proposed standards. If the new rule takes effect, economic activity in these regions would slow to a crawl. Construction projects would be put on hold, as would public works projects like hospitals, roads, and community centers.

These projects are crucial to our state’s unionized workers. The projects have generated positions that support families across New York. Losing them would be devastating.

All told, this new ozone rule would destroy more than 95,000 New York jobs annually, according to an analysis by NERA Economic Consulting. And over the next couple decades, the regulation would cost New York’s economy a whopping $160 billion.

Perhaps worst of all, our already faltering manufacturing sector would lose all hope of recovering. Factories in areas that fall short of the EPA’s standards would see productivity drop by nearly 5 percent. And many factories would be forced to shut down.

Our environment and economy would be far better served if regulators focused on bringing the entire country into compliance with current regulations. These existing rules have already proven effective and economically feasible.

Union leaders, like all Americans, want environmental regulations that appropriately balance the need to protect out air with the cause of economic growth. New rules should not come at the expense of fewer new jobs, particularly if those positions would have been in the skilled building trades that can support a family.

With its new ozone standard, the EPA would needlessly threaten the prosperity of communities across our state and around the country. Officials must abandon this senseless, job-killing rule — and stand up for the livelihoods of hardworking New Yorkers.

 

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