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Welcome to the O-zone

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By Marita Noon, Executive director, Energy Makes America Great, Inc.

Late on Thanksgiving eve the Obama administration released a roadmap of regulations being finalized in 2015. Within the bundle of more than 3,000 regulations lies a rule on ozone that President Barack Obama himself, in 2011, “put on ice” in effort to reduce “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”
So why is the rule back?
First, Obama isn’t facing an election. Most believe the 2012 election was the reason for the about-face. More importantly, following the 2011 decision that struck down the proposed ozone rule, environmental groups sued the Obama administration. The resulting court order required the Environmental Protection Agency to release the proposed rule by Dec. 1.
Once again, environmental groups are in charge of America’s energy, and, therefore, economic policy. They have systematically chipped away America’s sources of economic strength: cost-effective energy. And we’ve let them.
First, they came after coal at a time when natural gas was cheap and touted as the “bridge fuel” to the future. No one much spoke out. Some in the natural gas business even encouraged the war on coal, as it benefitted them. When I first heard that then-Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McLendon gave the Sierra Club $25 million to fight coal (it is reported that the Sierra Club turned down an additional $30 million), I remember yelling at the TV. “You fool!” I shouted. “You will be next!”
Within months, the Sierra Club launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign that claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy and harms human health and the environment in places where production occurs.”
The oil industry didn’t make much noise about the campaign — after all natural gas prices were low and oil, high. While environmental groups generally oppose all fossil fuels, the oil industry has been hurt the least. Jobs in the oil sector of the energy industry have been the lone bright spot in the economy and increased U.S. production has dramatically cut reliance on Middle Eastern crude.
Now, they are coming for oil-and-gas development and manufacturing through the just-announced 626-page ozone regulation that will require states to drastically reduce ozone emissions from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65 to 70ppb — though environmental groups want a 60ppb standard, which may be the final rule. While a 5-15ppb reduction doesn’t sound like much, it is important to realize that many areas of the U.S. are already out of compliance — including most of California — with the 75ppb level. The new regulations will mean that, depending on the final rule, 76-96 percent of the country — including some national parks where the natural background levels are 65-67ppb — will be out of compliance.
Environmental groups believe Obama will follow through this time because, as National Journal states: “the rule fits with the rest of Obama’s climate change agenda and they’d expect it to move forward even on the tighter end.” The Sierra Club’s Washington representative on smog pollution, Terry McGuire, believes: “The administration is emboldened to do that.”
While environmental groups and the Obama administration maybe feel, “emboldened,” more regulation that will impose a burden on industry, local governments and the average American is not what people want or need — as made clear through last month’s midterms. President Obama boldly declared that his policies were on the ballot, and the American people loudly spoke up against them.  
With the Obama administration willing to sacrifice jobs and economic development for some perceived environmental legacy, it is time for families, workers, businesses and the entire energy industry to speak out with one voice.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program America’s Voice for Energy, which expands on the content of her weekly column.