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Obama Sacks New EPA Smog Standards
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September 06, 2011

Obama Sacks New EPA Smog Standards

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which would have limited ground-level ozone, the primary ingredient in smog, to between 60 and 70 parts per billion---down from the 75 parts per billion set by the Bush administration in March 2008.

The standards, which originally were proposed in January 2010, had been delivered in final draft form in July.

In blocking the legislation, the president stressed “the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover,” and noted that, “Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013. Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.

Obama’s statement reached Jackson shortly after a letter from Cass Sunstein of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairsn addition to citing the reasons above, Sunstein chronicled the “series of strong and unprecedented steps” that Jackson’s EPA already has taken on pollution control, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution standards for heavy duty vehicles, and proposed national standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants. . I

Implying that Jackson had already made her mark, Sunstein said, “These standards … are projected to reduce ozone, as well. Cumulatively, these and other finalized rules count as truly historic achievements in protecting public health by decreasing air pollution levels, including ozone levels, across the nation.”  

The last-minute balk by the Obama Administration is being characterized in many quarters as just the latest concession the president has made in response to Republican and industry opposition. Just a few weeks ago, he conceded to more than a $1 trillion in spending reductions, with more to come, as the price for an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Earlier this week, the president had responded to a request from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for a list of pending rules that would cost over $1 billionhe ozone rule was the costliest of the seven he inventoried, with a negative impact estimated between $19 billion and $90 billion. . T

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had subdued praise for the White House, telling Associated Press that withdrawal of the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles to business growth.

"But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats' agenda of tax hikes, more government `stimulus spending, and increased regulations, which are all making it harder to create more American jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Major industry groups, which had lobbied hard for the White House to abandon the smog regulation, lauded the September 2 decision. American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard commended President Obama’s resolve to halt the EPA proposal, “[which would have] set a new, out-of-cycle ozone standard without any mandate or obligation.”

Gerard commented, “The President's decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work.  EPA's proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority.  "Ozone levels and air quality continue to improve under current regulations and our industry is committed to making the air we all breathe cleaner while creating new jobs. “

Environmentalists immediately slammed the decision as a setback. National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President Frances Beinecke commented, ““The White House is siding with corporate polluters over the American people. The Clean Air Act clearly requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set protective standards against smog---based on science and the law. The White House now has polluted that process with politics.

“Our public officials, including in the White House, serve to protect us from harm,” Beinecke continued. “They need to get on with doing their jobs. Inaction cannot be an option when it comes to ensuring a healthy and prosperous America.”

Obama remained reassuring. “I want to be clear: my commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering. I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution. And my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.”

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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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