EDITORIAL: New EPA mandate will needlessly hammer Nevada

Federal bureaucrats don’t care whether their mandates can be achieved or what consequences might result from their impossible demands. They care foremost about the exercise of their power and the justification of their existence.

It’s the only rational explanation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week to impose harsh new limits on ozone, a gas in vehicle and industrial emissions that contributes to smog and poor air quality. The EPA reduced the federal limit from 75 to 70 parts per billion, an action that leaves most of the rest of the country out of compliance and facing difficult choices in the years ahead.

But Nevada is in an especially bad spot. Even if the state and local governments impose costly compliance burdens on businesses and turn away job-creating industrial investment to keep ozone levels as low as possible — even if Nevada chases off scores of existing businesses to try to hit the EPA’s arbitrary goal — the state is all but guaranteed to fall short and, eventually, lose its federal highway and transit funding.

Why? Because Nevada has some of the highest background ozone levels the country. Background ozone results from emissions that take place elsewhere and blow in. A NASA study found that about 77 percent of Nevada’s ozone is from somewhere else. It can come from as far away as China. And when California wildfires are raging, forget about it. So the new EPA standard will make Nevadans pay dearly for emissions it can’t control.

The EPA plans to give the states with the highest ozone levels about 20 years to come into compliance. But even if Nevada qualifies for such a delay, it won’t stop the inevitable. The state would still have to take steps to limit factory and vehicle emissions. How absurd is the EPA’s new standard? White Pine County, which is nowhere close to ever becoming a polluted industrial wasteland, is out of compliance. We’d better start turning people away from the poisoned air of … Great Basin National Park.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed to do everything possible to prevent Nevada from being harmed by this rule. Good. If he can’t win the state an exemption, then the state should sue.

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