The Obama Administration is continuing its maddeningly anti-environmental course by blocking the EPA from enforcing stricter rules for air quality. Just last week, the administration approved the plan for the Keystone XL pipeline, and now Obama himself has stepped in to thwart the EPA’s plan to strengthen ground-level ozone (smog) standards, which could have protected us against health-threatening pollution. The President cited the recovering economy as his main reason for abandoning the regulations, saying that it would impose to heavy a burden on the industry — a fact that many environmentalists have been quick to point out is not entirely true.
The EPA’s new rule would have lowered the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (the standard set during the Bush administration) to 60 to 70 parts per billion, which is recommended by the EPA’s scientific advisers. The EPA notes that changing the regulation would save up to 12,000 American lives, 58,000 asthma attacks, and 2.5 million missed days of school or work each year. The new regulation would have caused hundreds of counties across the nation to be out of compliance, thus requiring a major enforcement by local governments.
The rule will now be reviewed in 2013, unless environmental advocates succeed in their quest to challenge Obama’s decision in court. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has made improving air quality standards a major goal of her tenure, telling many that it is one of the most important regulations she would handle. Her proposal for stronger standards has been delayed four times.
The President was quick to note that his ruling was not an abandonment of his concern for the environment or his support for the EPA. In a statement on the White House website, Obama said “I want to be clear: my commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering.” Adding, “and my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.”
Obama’s decision came just hours after the Labor Department showed that the unemployment rate is holding steady at 9.1 percent, and supporters agree that the regulations would have prevented companies from being able to create new jobs. “If policymakers want manufacturers to help put the economy back on solid footing, we need policies that enable us to create jobs, invest and compete in the global marketplace,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, in a statement.
But many environmental groups, including the National Resource Defense Council, say that this just isn’t true.”The jobs argument is a red herring thrown out there by Tea Party-types to try to continue their assault on EPA regulations,” Bob Keefe, senior press secretary for the NRDC, told the Huffington Post. “If you’ve got to upgrade power plants, you have to hire people: construction workers.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists seconded this notion, with member Liz Perera saying, “It is frustrating to see them kowtowing to this notion that you can’t save jobs and the environment, when in reality we know that the best way to have a successful economy is to have healthy people. It’s not helping our economy when people have to stay home to care for kids having asthma attacks.”
Lead image © Ken Banks via Creative Commons