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Beyond the Rhetoric: New Ozone Standard Harms Job Growth

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Harry Alford

By Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

 

Lowering the ozone standard, particularly to the levels suggested by EPA, will almost certainly cause economic harm to the National Black Chamber of Commerce members and will shut off huge parts of the country from economic development and job growth. As the country continues to recover from the recession, we should be finding ways to put Americans back to work and to attract business here in the U.S. We should not be piling on yet another rushed and unreasonable regulation on the backs of American businesses.

Below is the Congressional Testimony I am giving to Congress on March 17, 2015 concerning the potential damage to be done to our communities by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last November, EPA proposed lowering the primary ozone standard to a range of 65 – 70 parts per billion (ppb). Now, EPA is taking comments on lowering the standard down to 60 ppb. The current 75 ppb standard was finalized in March 2008. Significantly, that standard is still being implemented. In fact, EPA only finalized the implementation guidelines for the 2008 standard last month. The comment period for the new proposal closes on March 17 of this year, and under a court order, EPA must finalize the rule by October 1, 2015.

Last month, the National Association of Manufacturers released an economic study by NERA Economic Consulting on the impacts of EPA lowering the ozone standard to 65 ppb. The study estimates that a 65 ppb ozone standard would reduce the GDP by $140 billion, resulting in 1.4 million fewer jobs, and cost the average U.S. household $830 in lost consumption – each year from 2017 through 2040.

These national economic numbers are certainly important, but I think it is also critical that we discuss the local impacts of the ozone standard generally and the EPA’s proposal to lower it. It is the cities, counties and states that truly shoulder the burden and bear the brunt of the obligations and adverse impacts that stem from the continuous ratcheting down of the ozone standard. A designation of “nonattainment” – when an area is not meeting the ozone NAAQS – means no economic development, no new construction, and no job creation in that area. Specifically, in areas classified as in nonattainment, EPA can override state permitting decisions: such as upgrading new or existing facilities via the most effective emission reduction technologies without consideration of costs; and federally-supported highway and transportation projects can be suspended.

One local area’s business community is speaking out about already feeling the negative impacts of EPA’s ozone proposal. Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the surrounding area are home to many successful manufacturing and industrial facilities that help drive the economic livelihood of the area and the country as a whole. In recent years, the state has worked hard to decrease ozone levels in Baton Rouge. Following a period of nonattainment, Baton Rouge was found to be in compliance with the current 75 ppb ozone standard in April 2014.

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge has been experiencing an economic boom in the last few years with a great deal of the U.S. manufacturing renaissance taking place there. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently ranked Baton Rouge among the top ten of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas with respect to percentage gains in gross domestic product. In 2014, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce worked with four chemical manufacturers, who were investigating significant investments in the area. Two of the companies executed purchase agreements on sizeable industrial locations with the intent to develop them.

Unfortunately, all four companies later decided to search elsewhere for their investments. The companies all indicated that EPA’s ozone proposal with the threat of the ozone standard being lowered and the area falling back into nonattainment influenced their decisions to pull the plug on the projects in the Baton Rouge area.

Those four lost projects translated directly into lost dollars for the Baton Rouge area, its business community and its residents. According to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the projects would have resulted in $86 million in wages annually for the local economy. That dollar amount does not include any indirect investment or payroll that likely would have been created by the investments and project developments. Additionally, these projects would have included foreign investment – something that the U.S. is always eager to secure.

According to the Brookings Institution, Baton Rouge is among the twenty top-performing metropolitan economies in the country and of those top twenty metropolitan area economies, all but two of them would be in non-attainment were EPA to lower the ozone standard to 65 ppb. In other words, the growth and development being experienced by some of our country’s most economically prosperous areas right now are being threatened by EPA’s ozone proposal. The four lost projects in Baton Rouge are only the tip of the iceberg. Without a doubt, there have been others, and there will be more.

The EPA should retain the current 75 ppb ozone standard, and fully implement it. States did not even find out which of their counties would be designated as in nonattainment under the 2008 standard until April 2012.  Additionally, EPA did not finalize the necessary regulations and guidance for the 2008 standard until just recently in February 2015.  States are committing time and money to meet the 2008 ozone standard.  Yet, EPA now wants to move the goal posts in the middle of the game.  This further strains what are already limited resources that states have for implementation, and fails to give states a chance to meet the current ozone standard.

Secondly, compliance with the new proposed standard may be unachievable. Many areas have high “background” levels of ozone from vegetation and wildfires, and transport of ozone from Asia, Mexico and other places. These areas may not be able to meet the proposed standard even with the most expensive controls. Notably, the Grand Canyon would fail the proposed 70 ppb standard, and the Yellowstone National Park could not meet the proposed 65 ppb standard.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce and its members value and support clean air, clean water, and environmental quality. We also value and support economic growth, job creation, and prosperity for our individual members and this country as a whole. These are not mutually exclusive goals. We hope that EPA will hear the concerns of our organization and others, and retain and fully implement the current 75 ppb standard.

 

Harry C. Alford is the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. The National Black Chamber of Commerce represents 2.1 million Black owned businesses within the United States.

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EDITORIAL: Don’t Let Politicians Decide the Future of Journalism – Why We Oppose SB 911

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

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As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.
As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

By Regina Brown Wilson and Sandy Close

What could go wrong when politicians in Sacramento decide the future of  journalism?

The California Legislature could soon provide the answer. SB 911 — authored by Senator Steve Glazer – is the subject of a debate on how $25 million in state surplus funds should be distributed to local and ethnic journalism. If it is passed, we believe the bill would drive a stake in the heart of the independent ethnic media sector.

Ethnic media takes pride in being rooted in their communities and sounding an independent advocacy voice — accountable to the communities ​they serve. Back in 1827 the mission statement of Freedom Journal was proudly this: “We wish to plead our own cause, too long have others spoken for us.”

As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

In fact, for many decades, most ethnic media have operated as for-profit businesses. You can see on ​the mastheads — Sentinel, Voice, Guardian, Crusader — the call to our communities. Mainstream media has often disparaged ethnic media ​as advocacy media,​without understanding the unique role we play for our readers.

SB 911 is promoting a “nonprofit” model that would expressly forbid ethnic media from endorsing political candidates or lobbying for or against proposed legislation. It would silence ​them!

SB 911 establishes a board of political appointees to administer state money that would be costly and time consuming to set up and would wind up determining the criteria for how government doles out support for local journalism for years to come. Ethnic media might have two representatives on that board. But the majority on the pane​l would have no direct knowledge of the unique role of ethnic media or how ​they work. The last thing ethnic media needs are people with little experience in their communities determining what kind of media those communities need.

This scheme puts ethnic media in a competition to gain the approval of a board of political appointees. ​They would end up dependent on this board. In fact, ​they would end up dependent on grants or government agencies instead of local communities that have long supported ​them.

As currently written, the bill would allow media startups – including many in the nonprofit space – that have operated for only one or two years to qualify for support. This language fails to acknowledge the contributions made by established media that have worked for decades to serve their communities and sustain themselves.

SB 911 shines a spotlight on the dire straits many ethnic media find themselves in, especially following the business shutdowns from the pandemic, inflation, and a possible recession, let alone the demands of adapting to the digital world. But we’re not prepared to greenlight the bill as currently written for the sake of whatever share of the $25 million the board bestows to individual outlets after their own admin costs are met.

We urge the Legislature to consider far more productive ways of supporting the ethnic news sector much as it did with efforts promoting the 2020 Census when it increased the advertising dollars earmarked for ethnic media from $15 million to over $85 million, recognizing that only ethnic media could deliver truly inclusive outreach to the diverse communities that now make up the state.

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

The non-profit model works well only for a small number of ethnic media news agencies; they are convenors and informers of community, they fit the category of mission-driven journalism, we applaud them for their work.

But one size does not fit all media, especially given the diversity of ethnic news outlets. Don’t ask ethnic media to transform ​themselves into a model that reduces ​their interdependence with community. “Too long have others spoken for us.” That’s what SB 911 does and why we must oppose it.

About the Authors

Regina Brown Wilson is executive director of California Black Media, the oldest advocacy organization supporting locally-owned Black media.

Sandy Close is director of Ethnic Media Services and former executive director of New America Media/Pacific News Service.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: How Dare They Deny Our Right to Vote on Public Funds

The voters never asked to weigh in on whether the A’s should be allowed at Howard Terminal. They only wanted to give an advisory vote on whether the City should spend $1 billion of public infrastructure funds for a privately owned ballpark and luxury condominium complex.

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If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote.
If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote. 

By Kitty Epstein

On July 5, the City Council rejected the request of Oakland voters to place a measure on the 2022 ballot to allow them to weigh in on whether the City should spend public funds on infrastructure for billionaire A’s owner John Fisher’s privately owned baseball stadium and luxury condominium project at Howard Terminal.

Along with 800 likely voters, 76% of us said ‘yes’ to a survey by a nationally acclaimed polling firm that asked if we wanted to be heard before the City spent public money on infrastructure and other costs associated with the A’s development project. We followed that by getting 12,000 signatures on petitions sent directly to the Council demanding that they place the question on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot.

But the Council folded under the bullying tactics and rejected the ballot question with several phony excuses, including:

  • Money for the A’s is not coming out of the general fund
  • The project is too complicated for the voters to understand
  • There is no deal yet, so it is premature to ask voters their opinion

The voters never asked to weigh in on whether the A’s should be allowed at Howard Terminal. They only wanted to give an advisory vote on whether the City should spend $1 billion of public infrastructure funds for a privately owned ballpark and luxury condominium complex.

More than 100 speakers told the Council that public funds include money from the city, the county, the state, and the federal government. These are dollars that should not be committed to a ballpark and luxury condos when Oakland has surging homelessness and public safety emergencies.

In the end, the City Council gave in to construction unions who want to build the ballpark and luxury condos and they bent their collective knee to the A’s owner who doesn’t care about Oakland. By siding with billionaire Fisher and the unions, the Council let their own constituents down.

Two brave Councilmembers — Noel Gallo and Carroll Fife — favored the public’s right to vote. Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Niki Fortunato Bas, Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, and Treva Reid ignored the pleas of their constituents and voted against placing an advisory vote on the ballot.

As an extremely disappointed voter who participated in the poll and one of the 12,000 who signed petitions supporting a right to vote, I want to make sure all Oaklanders know who let them down and what they can do about it.

Councilmembers Thao, Taylor and Reid are running for Mayor. Councilmember Bas is running for re-election. These people think voters cannot be trusted to advise on whether public money should be spent on the A’s, but they want those same voters to elect them to office.

Councilmember Fife pointed out the duplicity of their position. She said the public will have their say in November one way or another. “Even if this (ballot vote) doesn’t move forward today, it will be in front of the Oakland voters in November in the form of who they vote for, for re-election.”

I respect some important actions taken by the Council this year on issues like the business tax. However, if they can’t stand up to the construction trades leadership who are predominately white, and right-wing billionaire Fisher on this critical Oakland matter, what other negative actions will they take on similar projects and on requests from their constituents?

This fight is far from over. If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote.

That is even more likely now that the Council has added insult to injury by rejecting the right to vote and bending their knees to the whims of the A’s owner.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Start Now to Take Back the Supreme Court 

Thanks to the anti-democratic Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected in 2016 even though almost 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination so that Trump could fill it instead—and then rushed Trump’s third justice onto the court even as voters were casting ballots to remove Trump from office.

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People for the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Did you ever wonder whether elections really matter? Well, the Trump Supreme Court majority has answered that question for good.

Or, more accurately, they have answered it for bad.

In the term that has just ended, the new far right-wing majority on the Supreme Court went on a rampage. They have torn up decades of legal precedent to diminish Americans’ rights and legal protections. To justify the results they wanted, they lied in their rulings the way some of them lied to get on the court. It has been a shameful display of power politics disguised as judging.

Not surprisingly, the most attention has been paid to the Court majority overturning the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision. A constitutional right that has made a huge difference in the lives of generations of women was wiped away. The impact will be devastating and deadly.

Millions of individuals and couples dealing with unwanted pregnancies, the trauma of rape or incest, life-threatening pregnancy complications, or even a miscarriage that some intrusive government official decides is suspicious, will have their options severely limited or eliminated entirely.

We know that those restrictions and their consequences will fall most harshly on already vulnerable people, including Black people, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and low-income people. Already in Missouri, a major health care system will no longer treat rape victims with emergency contraception because the state abortion ban puts medical care providers at legal risk.

Anti-abortion state legislators seem to be in competition to see who can pass the most extreme, intrusive, and controlling laws. Some are even trying to limit people’s right to travel from one state to another, targeting anyone who helps a person from a state that bans abortion get care in a state that permits it. It reminds me of the old fugitive slave laws that forced free states to help slave states deny people their freedom.

Unfortunately, overturning Roe is just one of the harmful decisions handed down by the Trump Court.

The Court intervened in voting rights cases to protect gerrymandering designed to limit Black voters’ access to political power. This comes on top of other rulings gutting the Voting Rights Act.

The Trump Court went after sensible regulation of guns. The far-right justices overturned a New York law more than 100 years old that required people to show a good cause to get a permit to carry concealed firearms.

Communities that are already suffering from the effects of gun crime are likely to experience even greater violence now that the court has robbed public officials of options and given the extremist pro-gun political agenda the power of law.

The court also further dismantled the separation of church and state, which protects religious freedom and preserves equality under law for people regardless of their religious beliefs. The Trump court took a wrecking ball to this pillar of American society. It is forcing states to divert tax dollars to religious schools, like some Southern states did when they funded white evangelical segregationist academies that emerged in resistance to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing racially segregated public schools.

This court has made it easier for public officials, like teachers, to coerce students into prayer or other religious practices. This is a very clear threat to anyone whose faith is different from the one dominant in their community or state.

In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court, which we counted on for generations to uphold civil rights and tear down obstacles to equality, is now acting as an arm of the increasingly aggressive far-right political movement.

How did we get here?

Simple.

Thanks to the anti-democratic Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected in 2016 even though almost 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination so that Trump could fill it instead—and then rushed Trump’s third justice onto the court even as voters were casting ballots to remove Trump from office.

Behind Trump and McConnell was a massively funded, decades-long campaign to build the political power to take control of the judiciary.

In other words, winning the presidency and controlling the Senate gave the far right the power to force its harmful agenda on the American public long after voters rejected Trump. Taking the Court back from the extremists who now control it will be a long-term project. It starts with this year’s elections.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People for the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022. 

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