Uncertainty is the only certainty for EPA’s mulled air quality rules

A move to intensify regulations on a key air quality marker has all the makings of a disaster for small businesses and rural communities.

Usually, when the Environmental Protection Agency proposes new air quality rules, the groups for the new proposal and those against it are fairly predictable. 

A new proposal to tighten air quality rules ahead of the standard regulatory schedule, though, is uniting some interesting bedfellows given the proposed rule’s far-reaching and potentially severe unintended consequences. A multitude of industry groups, individual companies, and even individuals representing such widely diverse interests as agriculture, financial and business services, logistics and trade, and energy are opposed to making the rule on PM2.5 – a fine particulate matter – tougher.


Unfortunately, this is another example of a politically motivated regulatory process with strong economic drivers wrapped up in the fallout of these decisions. 

I am not writing to quibble with any Administration’s ideology. I am writing because a short-sighted and uncertain regulatory process can seriously jeopardize businesses at a time when many are still recovering from the pandemic. The current business climate is loaded with uncertainty – in their supply chains, in their workforce, in their customers’ ability to buy their products, and, ultimately, in future capital investment. 

We agree that cleaner air is a vital goal to work towards, and we support efforts to achieve those goals. In fact, the EPA’s own data cites our nation’s air quality has improved more than 30% over the last two decades. However, as we look toward future improvement, we must strike a balance between new regulations and supporting economic development, particularly in agriculture. 

The ag sector was incredibly hard-hit in the pandemic. Strict health protocols coupled with a near-collapse of supply chains and global instability made for a potent hit on an industry that runs on thin margins. Controlling pollutants kicked up by agricultural activities are a unique challenge. Fine particulates sent into the air by animals, spreading fertilizer, or even moving farm and ranch equipment can exacerbate air pollutant emissions.

California’s farmers and ranchers take seriously their responsibility to control emissions and work to comply with related state and federal regulations. But they need elected officials and regulatory agencies to take equally seriously the protection of our agriculture interests.

It’s often said about regulations: as California goes, so goes the nation. Our businesses already face some of the strictest air quality regulations in the nation. It’s right that we protect our vast and diverse natural resources, but the EPA’s proposal will undermine economic growth in the state. 

Over the last couple of years, the federal government has made historic investments into infrastructure to repair and modernize roads, bridges, and water systems that are badly in need of resources. Making the PM2.5 rules more stringent right now could make it harder for projects to clear the various permitting hurdles, which will have unintended consequences up and down the supply chain. 

Our manufacturers already operate under some of the strongest environmental performance standards in the world, but pushing stricter regulations ahead of schedule jeopardizes not only traditional manufacturing but also the clean-energy projects that are trying to come online. 

It is reasonable to examine our nation’s air quality and work to improve it, but it is unreasonable to enact politically motivated regulations that have far-reaching economic consequences across a diverse set of industries and communities. The EPA’s current proposed rule change to PM2.5 is the wrong path to take.

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