Obama Axes Ozone Rule; Could Have Cost Business $90bn

by | Sep 2, 2011

President Obama climbed down this morning from proposed national ozone standards that have been heavily criticized by industry and the GOP.

In a statement released this morning, Obama said that “after careful consideration,” he has requested that Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which would have limited ground-level ozone to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, down from the 75 parts per billion set by the Bush administration in March 2008. Ozone is the primary ingredient in smog.

“Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013,” Obama said. “Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.”

The rule would have required counties to keep local pollution down or risk losing federal funds, the Washington Post says.

Obama cast the decision as part of an administration effort to reduce regulatory burdens. In January the president issued an executive order calling for agencies, including the EPA, to ease “absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements.” The EPA responded with a report laying out 31 regulatory reviews as priority activities, and completed a final version of its regulatory review plan last week.

The Post said today’s announcement is a win for business. Industry groups had lobbied to postpone the restrictions until 2013.

USA Today said the regulations could have cost businesses between $20 billion and $90 billion annually, “making it by far the most expensive new rule on the federal books.” The ozone rules sat atop a list of proposed regulations costing more than $1 billion, a ranking recently demanded by House speaker John Boehner.

The Los Angeles Times said the EPA had delayed issuing rules on low-level ozone four times since 2010, most recently postponing a July 29 deadline.

In response to an Earthjustice motion asking the court to require EPA to issue ozone standards immediately, the agency last month filed its own motion, saying that the standards would be issued soon but that the regulations were under review at the Office of Management and Budget.

Today’s announcement came as somewhat of a surprise, the L.A. Times said. “Many in industry and the environmental community had expected the EPA to issue the rules and implementation guidelines by an Aug. 12 deadline to file a proposal for next steps with a court, as part of a pending lawsuit,” the paper said.

Obama said his administration “will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made,” praising Jackson for taking actions to limit air pollution.

“From reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from outdated power plants to doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, the historic steps we’ve taken will save tens of thousands of lives each year, remove over a billion tons of pollution from our air, and produce hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits for the American people,” Obama said.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steele said, “We’re glad that the White House responded to the speaker’s letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation. 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.”

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