Close 

Obama orders controversial proposed ozone standard withdrawn

US President Barack Obama ordered US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to withdraw a proposed ozone national ambient air quality standard. Citing work already under way to update the 2006 limits by 2013, he said he would not ask state and local governments to implement regulations that would be reconsidered so soon.

“I want to be clear: My commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering,” the president said. “I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution. And my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.”

But his Sept. 2 order ended consideration of a proposed ozone standard that the oil and gas industry and other US businesses said would have been an economic calamity and a regulatory nightmare. “The president’s decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work,” American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said. “EPA’s proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority.”

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Pres. Charles T. Drevna said Obama acted in the nation’s interest by telling EPA “to cease and desist in its effort to impose unrealistic, unjustified, and unneeded new ozone standards on our nation.” The proposed limits would have cost millions of jobs and the US economy more than $9 trillion over the next decade, he said. “This is the last thing our nation needs with the unemployment rate stuck above 9%,” Drevna said.

The US Chamber of Commerce was glad the White House ordered EPA to withdraw what the nation’s largest business organization considered a potentially disastrous, and completely unnecessary, new ozone standard, Pres. Thomas J. Donohue said. “This an enormous victory for America’s job creators, the right decision by the president, and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses,” he said. “It’s also a big first step in what needs to be a broader regulatory reform effort.”

‘Made it clear’

In a Sept. 2 letter to Jackson, Cass R. Sunstein, the White House Office of Management and Budget’s information and regulatory affairs administrator, confirmed that Obama wanted the proposed rule reconsidered. “He has made it clear that he does not support finalizing the rule at this time,” the OMB official said.

Sunstein told Jackson that the proposed final rule was being returned for reconsideration because finalizing a new standard now is not mandatory and could produce needless uncertainty. He also cited Executive Order 13563, which states that federal regulations “must be based on the best available science,” and noted that work already has begun on a new ozone scientific review on that basis, while the proposed standard indirectly relied on scientific literature from 2006.

“We urge you to reconsider whether to issue a final rule in late 2011, based on evidence that is no longer the most current, when a new scientific assessment is already under way,” Sunstein said. He added that EPA, under Jackson’s leadership, also has taken several other steps to reduce air pollution in general and ozone in particular which cumulatively could significantly address the problem.

In a Sept. 2 statement responding to Obama’s announcement and order, Jackson said EPA has put in place some of the most significant clean air standards in US history since the president’s administration began, and that it would revisit the ozone standard in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act.

Environmental organizations were disappointed. “The White House is siding with corporate polluters over the American people,” declared Natural Resources Defense Council Pres. Frances Beineke. “The Clean Air Act clearly requires the [EPA] to set protective standards against smog—based on science and the law. The White House now has polluted that process with politics.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.


To access this Article, go to:
http://www.ogj.com/content/ogj/en/articles/2011/09/obama-orders-controversial-proposed-ozone-standard-withdrawn.html