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Air Quality

Polluters Rejoice! Obama Caves on Proposed Ozone Standard

1:20 PM EDT on September 2, 2011

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?

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