Report: White House Budget Office Helped Weaken EPA Pollution Rule

Pensacola, Florida. Springfield, Missouri. Fort Wayne, Indiana. All three of those metropolitan areas have populations between 350,000 and 500,000, and all three would have been required to install nitrogen dioxide monitoring stations near major roadways under a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule cracking down on the pollutant.

sunstein.PNGCass Sunstein, chief of the White House budget office’s regulatory arm. (Photo: Wonk Room)

But as the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) noted soon after the EPA unveiled its rule, an initial draft setting the minimum population for local air-quality monitoring at 350,000 was changed to 500,000, leaving out cities such as Fort Wayne and effectively weakening the nitrogen dioxide rule’s accountability.

Another watchdog group traced the change to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which evaluates new agency regulations through a smaller arm called OIRA (short for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs). The president’s nominee to lead OIRA, Cass Sunstein, has taken heat from green groups for his past criticism of government’s role in the rule-making process.

What’s the significance of the OMB’s change to the EPA rule? "The fewer the monitors, the more likely it is that many metropolitan
areas will be able to exceed EPA’s limits without detection or
correction," CPR president and law professor Rena Steinzor wrote on the group’s blog in late January.

Steinzor’s post also addressed the significance of the new nitrogen dioxide rule, noting that the pollutant tends to be especially common, and dangerous, in lower-income neighborhoods located near busy roads:

Scientific evidence links human NO2 exposure with various respiratory health problems. … The biggest source of NO2 pollution is automobile emissions, though
power plants and heavy industry are also significant contributors. NO2
pollution levels tend to be greater in urban areas and near major
roadways, which means NO2 pollution tends to disproportionately harm
the poor and communities of color.

(h/t Wonk Room)

  • Cosme Perez

    Matthew 16:26

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

EPA Strengthens Nitrogen Dioxide Rules for First Time in 35 Years

|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a new "one-hour standard" aimed at limiting Americans’ short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant created by cars, power plants, and other industrial sources. (Photo: TreeHugger) NO2, a main ingredient in smog, is linked to adverse respiratory health effects such as chronic asthma. In creating a new […]

On Emissions, CA Lawmaker Questions Whether CA Should Lead the Way

|
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson today told House members that she would soon begin work on new auto fuel-efficiency rules for the year 2017 and beyond, responding to calls from carmakers searching for certainty — and warily eyeing the new fuel standards being crafted in California. (Photo: The Weekly Driver) The political and […]

EPA to Declare CO2 a Pollutant, Release Final Fuel-Efficiency Rules

|
Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson made news on two fronts in a meeting with reporters yesterday: she is preparing to officially declare carbon dioxide a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and release the final version of the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standard for autos. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson (Photo: Legal Planet) Neither […]

EPA Rejects New York’s Clean Water Money Grab for Highway Bridge

|
This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the $510.9 million federal loan New York state had requested from a clean water program to pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. Only $29 million worth of TZB work is eligible for clean water money, the EPA’s regional office ruled, averting a dangerous precedent that could have […]

Obama Adviser: If EPA is Blocked on Emissions, Forget About CAFE Deal

|
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson extended an olive branch this week to lawmakers who are pushing to block her from regulating carbon emissions in the absence of a congressional climate bill, but Jackson’s promise to delay action until next year appears to have made no headway with Republicans and coal-state Democrats.  Carol Browner, […]

Today’s Headlines

|
The White House didn’t discriminate between GOP and Democratic governors in its high-speed rail spending … but it did hit the congressional politics on the nose (Greenwire) A new study urges controversial transition from the gas tax to one on vehicle miles traveled (Post-Gazette) An examination of the future of urban transportation, through the lens […]