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Arizona business leaders, Republican lawmakers seek to block clean air EPA rule

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Calling the rules unnecessary and costly, state business leaders and top Republican lawmakers are asking a federal appeals court to block a new air quality rule being enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In new legal filings, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry contends that the regulation to tighten up standards for fine particulates exceeds the agency's authority. The lawsuit, also filed by Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, claims the rule is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.''
Challengers ask the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- the court that has prime jurisdiction in cases against agency -- to declare the EPA action unlawful.
The lawsuit is not unique, with half of the states having filed similar claims.
But Danny Seiden, president of the state chamber, told Capitol Media Services there are some Arizona-specific issues with the regulations.
He said some of the pollutants that EPA seeks to curb are due to things beyond the controls of the Arizona businesses that would be affected by what he says would be rules that would be expensive to implement. Seiden said that includes emissions from other countries that are blown here.
All that, he said, is why nationwide rules make no sense.
In their own statement, Petersen and Toma say that the the rule specifically "creates unattainable environmental goals for Maricopa, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties as it imposes incredibly stringent regulations of fine particles within the air.''
That's backed by the EPA which concluded that the three counties do not currently meet the new standard, a finding that could block permits for new manufacturing facilities. Toma and Petersen also say another eight counties also may not be able to comply, "threatening the state's economic growth and prosperity.''
At issue are standards for PM 2.5, fine, inhalable particles that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Health officials say they are so small they can reach deep into the lungs, causing both short-term and long-term effects.
Current rules allow up to 12 micrograms of PM 2.5 particles per cubic meter of air to 9 micrograms.
In approving the final rules last month, EPA says it would prevent 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, yielding up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032.
Seiden said the plan ignores the work that already has been done.
"We have spent 40 years in the commercial side and the industrial side reducing our emissions,'' he said. "And we've been extremely successful.''
The GOP leaders said that record has been ignored.
"The Biden administration should be rewarding American businesses for being the most environmentally friendly in the world,'' they said in their statement. "Instead, they are doubling down on their left-wing agenda.''
Seiden, for his part, isn't talking politics but money.
If the EPA rule is implemented, he said, it will result in higher costs for everything from preparing permits to installing new emission control technology. Seiden said there are national figures putting the cost of compliance at $100 billion with the lost of more than a million jobs.
He said, though, he's not trying to put a price on lives and health.
But what's lost in all this, Seiden said, is that more than 70% of these small particles come from outside the commercial and industrial sources that would be regulated.
And then there are the international sources.
"Why should us and our economy and people's right to make a living pay the price for the irresponsibility of policy that recognizes the natural events in the correct way or recognizes international transport in the correct way,'' Seiden said. "You can't disregard the science of where this stuff is coming from and who's responsible.''
What's also ignored, say Toma and Petersen, is that wildfires account for 43% of all particulate matter -- of all sizes -- in the air.
The EPA does not dispute there are other sources, saying that PM 2.5 particles can be emitted directly from a source like construction sites, unpaved road, fields, smokestack or fires. The agency also says that the particles can come from "complex reactions of chemicals'' such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which are pollutants that come from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles.
"We're doing the right thing,'' Seiden said, citing reduction of pollution over the years. "But to do so at such a high cost to us when they're not addressing the real problem and what's going to actually bring these things down, that's a tough pill to swallow.''
The bottom line, he said, is there has to be some reasonableness to all of this given the regulations that already apply to domestic businesses.
"You're kind of almost incentivizing it, it's going to be real expensive, you might not get a permit, so go do it overseas, go do it in Southeast Asia, where that will come over and pollute our air,'' Seiden said. "That is so illogical and makes no sense.''
What would make sense, he said, is working with companies to "get the right goal.''
In announcing the final rule, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said it "will save lives and make people healthier, especially within America's most vulnerable and overburdened communities.''
"Cleaner air means that our children have brighter futures, and people can live more productive and active lives, improving our ability to grow and develop as a nation,'' he said.
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