The Obama Administration's recent announcement that it will not move forward with long-awaited evidence-based updates to smog standards is disappointing news for Main Street small businesses.
Clean air is a Main Street value. It always has been. And for good reason: cleaner air improves health and productivity, and reduces absenteeism and business health costs.
By the same token, the decision not to move forward with the new smog standards shifts the costs of lost work days and increased health care costs from smog-related illnesses (like asthma) onto small businesses. The proposed ozone standards would yield health benefits worth tens of billions of dollars annually by 2020, preventing or avoiding up to 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits, and 420,000 lost work days.
Some groups that claim to represent the unified voice of the business community pit clean air against job creation. In their telling, we can have clean air or we can have jobs, but not both. In other words, jobs and a healthy economy can come only at the expense of healthy communities. Main Street small business owners recognize this as a false choice.
Healthy communities are integral to the success of America’s small businesses. While big corporations can dump pollution in a community and then close up shop and move somewhere else without their CEOs or shareholders ever having to breathe the local air, small businesses can't. Small business owners, their employees, and their customers all breathe the same air.
That's why clean air is a Main Street value. And that's why we'll keep fighting for standards that protect clean air, protect the public health, and protect local communities and local economies.
Opponents of clean air and water standards are putting their money into a new set of wheels. It's called the TRAIN Act (TRAIN stands for Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation - read the bill here).
Put briefly, this proposal is an attempt to open a new line of attack on the Environmental Protection Agency and rules that protect and promote clean air and water, veiled in the language of "cost-benefit analyses." And when the proponents of this proposal say "cost-benefit" analysis, what they really mean is "cost-cost" analysis - that is, an evaluation that takes into account only the costs and not the benefits of clean air and water for businesses, local economies, and communities.
The fact is, we already have review processes set up to look carefully at the full picture of costs and benefits when it comes to updating the standards that protect our air and water. We have plenty of cost-benefit analyses, both from government agencies and from independent third parties. And when you look at the full picture, it's clear that the benefits of our air and water standards far outweigh the costs for small businesses and for our economy overall.
A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute reaffirms these conclusions. The paper, which looked at both final and proposed EPA rules, found that for nine final rules and four proposed rules studied:
- The combined annual benefits from the nine final rules exceed the costs by $32 billion to $142 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 4-to-1 to 22-to-1).
- The combined annual benefits from the four proposed rules exceed the costs by $160 billion to $440 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 12-to-1 to 32-to-1).
Looking at these benefit-to-cost ratios, we're talking about an impressive return on investment.
Clean air and clean water are Main Street values and always have been. A true cost-benefit analysis shows that they make economic sense for small businesses and for the economy as a whole.
Here's hoping for small businesses that the ill-conceived TRAIN Act never leaves the station.