Polluters Rejoice! Obama Caves on Proposed Ozone Standard

This morning, President Obama announced that he would direct the EPA to back off of new ozone standards that would have saved an estimated 12,000 lives [PDF]. They’ll revisit it in 2013.

Get used to it.

Obama said the action was taken in the interest of “reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover,” but environmental groups slammed the decision as “a huge win for corporate polluters,” in the words of League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski.

NRDC President Frances Beinecke said, “The Clean Air Act clearly requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set protective standards against smog — based on science and the law. The White House now has polluted that process with politics.” Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she was “disappointed” with the decision.

The decision has a major impact on efforts to reform transportation, NRDC’s Deron Lovaas told Streetsblog.

“It frankly makes our job harder, in terms of reducing pollution from mobile sources,” Lovaas said. “If they had set the standard closer to 60 parts per billion, as opposed to 80, regions and states would have to get really serious about transit, and really serious about smart growth, and really serious about reducing vehicle miles traveled, because the gains couldn’t all be made through better technology.”

Business interests had long lobbied against the tighter standards, and they expressed their pleasure at the president’s announcement. The Chamber of Commerce cheered the move, rationalizing that by waiting for the statutorily-required rule-making in 2013, the EPA “can base its decision on the most recent science, not 2006 science.”

According to the National Review, some Republicans had called the ozone requirements “the single most harmful regulation proposed by the administration” and estimated that the total cost of implementation would have been “at least $1 trillion over a decade and millions of jobs.” House Speaker John Boehner called Obama’s concession to polluters “a good first step” and said he was glad the White House “recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation.”

Did we mention it would have saved 12,000 lives?

  • Lodel

    Boehner fails to realize the significance of innovation, and how innovation CREATES jobs. Our modern economy was founded on it and was the #1 reason why the US was so far ahead of other nations during most of the 20th century. Get a life Bo(eh)ner.

  • By allowing entities to spew
    ozone (smog) into the air for free, costs are shunted to taxpayers in
    the form of increased health care premiums and increased Medicare
    expenses. A recent Rand Corporation study shows that Californians
    are
    paying an extra $200 million a year due to to airborne particulate
    matter and ozone causing extra hospital admissions for respiratory and
    cardiovascular problems and ER admissions due to asthma. $60 million is
    passed on in the form of increased premiums and $140 million is funded
    by the California taxpayer. The study did not take into account other
    costs associated with particulate matter and ozone, including outpatient
    visits, chronic and acute bronchitis, heart attacks, lost work and
    schools days, restricted activity and premature mortality. Other studies
    on particulate matter and ozone estimate including these factors would
    quadruple the cost. So figure Californians are paying close to $1 billion a year to deal with the costs (hidden and indirect but nonetheless real) resulting from not tightening our pollution standards.
    Creating transit creates jobs. Building out a rail network in this country would create jobs as well as provide an infrastructure that we’ll desperately need as we face the down slope of Peak Oil. Cutting in half the nearly $500 billion dollars Americans send to foreign countries each year in exchange for oil would significantly boost our economy and improve our trade deficit. To call allowing people access to air that does not sicken or kill them “job-killing”  is to imply that any activity that creates a job is to be valued no matter the harm it does.

    I certainly recognize the importance of people being able to work and earn an income, but our economy has been flat lined by grossly negligent bank and financial regulation that created entirely avoidable boom/bust cycles, not because we don’t pollute the air enough. Do we really, truly believe as a nation that poisoning children until they can’t breathe is acceptable as long as it might provide an uptick in GDP?

    Our economic problems are large, but at their very root is a flawed understanding of what constitutes prosperity.  We need to begin measuring our economy in a way that reflects the well-being of our people, not the amount of money that changes hands.

  • Ian Turner

    If the regulation really would have cost $1 trillion, then it would not be a very good deal, at least from a lifesaving perspective. 12,000 lives for $1 trillion comes out to $83 million per life saved; sending that money to medical interventions could save far more lives.

  • The tightened regulation would have cost between $19 billion and $90 billion per year, depending on how strictly it was enforced. It would have saved $13 – $100 billion a year in health care costs. (The New York Times article below from January has more accurate numbers and is an all around better, though less recent, article.)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44372992/ns/us_news-environment/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/science/earth/08smog.html

    We either pay to eliminate the smog and have better health, or suffer the smog and still pay.

  • It’s not exactly 12,000 – the range is 4,000-12,000 per year.

    Anti-environmentalists like to rant about the excessive costs of policies they dislike, with arguments from large numbers preferred. If the cost can be made an even trillion, then all the better. Implicit in what they say is that nothing else is worth anything: the preservation of an endangered species, or a scenic river, or even human life is worth $0, so there are no benefits to environmental legislation, only costs.

  • Clutch J

    Probably a good political move. Whether progressives like it or not, Obama will need business support to win re-election. If he wins and the economy picks up a little, we’ll get these new regulations in 2013. If he loses, we won’t. Obviously, any GOP prez elected in 2012 will overturn countless Obama Administration actions related to the environment, finance, transportation, etc.

    So, if this action adds to the impression that Obama has (finally and fully) pivoted to the economy and thus aids his reelection bid, it will pay off in the coming years.

  • Clutch J

    Probably a good political move. Whether progressives like it or not, Obama will need business support to win re-election. If he wins and the economy picks up a little, we’ll get these new regulations in 2013. If he loses, we won’t. Obviously, any GOP prez elected in 2012 will overturn countless Obama Administration actions related to the environment, finance, transportation, etc.

    So, if this action adds to the impression that Obama has (finally and fully) pivoted to the economy and thus aids his reelection bid, it will pay off in the coming years.

  • Clutch J

    Probably a good political move. Whether progressives like it or not, Obama will need business support to win re-election. If he wins and the economy picks up a little, we’ll get these new regulations in 2013. If he loses, we won’t. Obviously, any GOP prez elected in 2012 will overturn countless Obama Administration actions related to the environment, finance, transportation, etc.

    So, if this action adds to the impression that Obama has (finally and fully) pivoted to the economy and thus aids his reelection bid, it will pay off in the coming years.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure that is the idea, but when he engages in political horse-trading, he often seems to end up with no horses.

  • Davistrain

    And unless people are keeling over in the streets, and the “bring out your dead” wagons are circulating through gloom-shrouded towns, your average American isn’t that concerned about threats to health.  Consider all the articles about the “obesity epidemic” and how fast food “restaurants” are still selling burgers by the truckload, and snack chips are still big business.

  • Yuuhann

    [url=http://www.clothingshoes.org/][b]replica shoes handbags[/b][/url], replica burberry scarf

  • Sally T.

    The bottom line is that anti-environmentalists basically think environmental issues are imaginary and are figments of the imagination of political liberals.

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