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White House Abandons Ozone Rule

Air Quality: Obama cites need to reduce regulatory burdens as the economy recovers

by Glenn Hess
September 2, 2011

President Barack Obama today directed EPA to drop its highly controversial effort to set, under the auspices of the Clean Air Act, more stringent standards for ground-level ozone pollution, a key constituent of smog. Obama cited the need to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty among the business community in light of the struggling economy.

“With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that [EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson] withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time,” the President said.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards for ground-level ozone once every five years. The standards include a “primary” standard for protecting public health and a “secondary” one aimed at safeguarding crops and the environment.

In 2008, the George W. Bush Administration set both standards at 75 ppb. But In January 2010, Jackson proposed tightening the standards to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppb, a range recommended by the agency’s scientific advisory committee.

Obama noted that the current ozone standard is due for review and possible revision again in two years.

“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,” the President said.

Business groups and congressional Republicans had complained that tightening the ozone standards now would cost billions of dollars and result in more lost jobs. Compliance was estimated by EPA to cost as much as $90 billion annually, the most expensive new regulation being considered by the Administration.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade group representing the nation’s largest chemical companies, welcomed Obama’s move, calling it “a win for America’s chemistry industry, for our nation’s economy and for hard working men and women across the country.”

ACC said the decision will ensure that communities “that would have essentially been closed for business by the new standard have a fighting chance of attracting new factories, new construction projects, and new energy production.”

However, the decision also drew immediate criticism from environmentalists. “The Obama Administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. “This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health.”



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