The Obama administration has decided not tighten ozone standards nationwide, citing the need to remove uncertainty for the businesses and local governments that would be impacted by the change, officials said Friday.
The Environmental Protection Agency, following the recommendation of its scientific advisers, had proposed lowering the ozone standard from the one set during the Bush administration. The stricter standard would have thrown hundreds of counties across the country out of compliance with The Clean Air Act and would have cost an estimated $20 billion to $90 billion annually to enforce.
The current regulations will stay in effect until 2013, according to a White House statement, which said officials are already working to update a 2006 review of the nation's air quality standards.
In the statement, the president emphasized his commitment to environmental issues, highlighting his administration's effort to double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks and reduce toxic air pollution from outdated power plants.
At the same time, I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover. With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time, he added.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Cass Sunstein, the head of the White House office of regulatory affairs, said there was no persuasive reason to rewrite the ozone standard in advance of the reconsideration in 2013.
In a statement, Jackson said her agency would revisit the ozone standard, in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Many environmental activists expressed outrage at the decision, claiming the president has decided to cave into business interests while sacrificing the health of American citizens.
This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health, Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
However, for once, Republicans lawmakers applauded the move, saying the action will do wonders for job creation in a lethargic economic climate.
We're glad that the White House responded to the speaker's letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation, said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped the administration will continue to heed bipartisan requests in order to address its failings regarding job creation.
This action alone will prevent more job losses than any speech the president has given, McConnell said.
When the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, Congress required the EPA to review the allowable pollutant levels every five years. Because a new ozone standard was announced in 2008, a new standard is not technically necessary until 2013.
However, the 2008 standard was set at 75 parts per billion even though EPA scientists have recommended a range between 60 and 70 parts per billion. Jackson herself even said the 2008 level was not legally defensible.
The Obama administration has already missed several deadlines to change the air quality standard set in 2008.