Obama Rewards Polluters, Blocks New Smog Restrictions

smog new york city obama
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Smog rests over New York City
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Today the Obama administration did the indefensible. It did the bidding of the American Petroleum Insitute and pulled the plug on a new, stricter standard for ozone (i.e. smog) pollution, jeopardizing public health for short-term political gain.

Some quick background: Smog is the nation's most prevalent pollutant. It causes lung damage and asthma attacks. People die early because of too much smog. In 2008, the Bush administration called for a standard of 75 parts per billion, a decision that flew in the face of the of a unanimous panel of EPA scientists who called for a smog standard as low as 60 ppb. 

Under administrator Lisa Jackson, the EPA has been at work revising the Bush regulation, seeking to replace it with a science-based standard. The agency estimated that tighter controls on smog at 60 ppb might create costs of $90 billion for polluters, but that society could reap as much as $100 billion in return on that investment -- in the form of fewer sick days and reduced medical expenses.

API met with the White House in late July to make the case that a reduction in smog would be too costly, and argued the administration wasn't technically obligated to revisit the faulty Bush standard until 2013. 

In a letter today, Obama's regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, acting "at the President's direction," instructed Jackson to withdraw the new rule, forestalling action until 2013, because "finalizing a new standard now is not mandatory." While observing that the EPA is barred from considering financial costs when creating new Clean Air regulations, Sunstein nonetheless emphasized Obama's wish to "minimize regulatory costs and burdens, particularly in this economically challenging time."

Health and environmental advocates have been rightfully outraged. But the oil industry couldn't be happier:

"The President's decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work," said API President and CEO Jack Gerard. "The oil and natural gas industry was one of the few industries to actually create jobs in August. With the right public policies, we can do more to help generate more American jobs and help get our economy back on track."

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