President Obama bowed down to the demands of congressional Republicans and other business leaders on Friday when he announced that his administration’s plans to tighten smog rules had been scrapped. In a statement, the president said he wants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw his administration’s draft plan for air quality standards for the ozone.
Obama asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the draft of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards plan, which he says is an effort to reduce regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty because of the struggling economy. He noted that it would impose a severe burden on industry and local governments and that it would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“Work is already under way to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.”
Obama said that his administration would continue to protect the public health and environment. He noted that in the future he would “vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.”
Obama overruled both the EPA and the opinion of its panel of scientific advisers by withdrawing the proposed regulation, which would have reduced the amount of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to a stricter 60 to 70 parts per billion.
According to the EPA, the new smog rule could have saved as much as $100 billion in health costs and could have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths from heart and lung complications caused by ozone. Ozone is the main ingredient in smog, which is a lung irritant which can cause asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Shortly following the White House Statement, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor celebrated the move. “GOP jobs pushing working,” Brad Dayspring said in a tweet.
However, many within Obama’s base were disappointed by the move, noting that he caved once again to demands by the Republican Party.
Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, also slammed the decision. “The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health,” Karpinski told Forbes.
A statement by the Center for American Progress also slammed the decision made by the Obama administration.
“It is unfortunate that the Obama administration ceded on such an important standard for public health based on updated science recommendations ignored by the Bush administration,” part of the statement read. “The decision creates a clear blemish on an otherwise positive record of this administration in supporting initiatives that reduce pollution including the first fuel saving standards for trucks, higher fuel efficiency for cars built from 2017 to 2025 and proposed reductions in toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. The president must continue to fight and defeat efforts to block and weaken other clean air health safeguards.”
Charles D. Connor, the President and CEO of the American Lung Association, was also not pleased by the decision made, noting that it is looking to revive its litigation to sue Obama’s administration, which they had previously suspended because of assurances that the administration was going to go forward with the regulation.
“For two years the Administration dragged its feet by delaying its decision, unnecessarily putting lives at risk. Its final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of American, which is inexcusable,” a statement by Connor read.