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Obama Kills New EPA Smog Standards - Pros and Cons

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Obama Kills New EPA Smog Standards - Pros and Cons
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On September 2, 2011, President Obama killed proposed new national air-quality standards for smog, thus overriding the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to force states and regions nationwide to reduce air pollution or face substantial federal fines.

The Politics
President Obama's abrupt change was an enormously discouraging setback for liberals and environmentalists, many who are already deeply disappointed with the President's White House record. Liberals support better air-quality because of smog's detrimental effects on public health.

Republicans praised the President's move, though. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell exhorted, "This action alone will prevent more job losses than any speech the President has given..."

Per the New York Times, "Leaders of major business groups — including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable... told William Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for re-election."

In his White House statement, President Obama stated that he killed proposed new national smog standards as a means "of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty" for U.S. businesses.

The Facts

In March 2008, the George W. Bush administration set a smog-particulate (i.e. ground-level ozone) standard of 75 parts per billion. This rate, however, exceeded the EPA's scientific advisors' smog particulate "safe" levels.

Although the federal government revisits air-quality standards every five years, the Obama administration had opted to review smog standards early because of the adverse health impact of smog on Americans, especially on children.

Obama's EPA head, Lisa Jackson, sought to set new smog particulate standards at about 70 parts per billion, which is at the high-end of scientific advisory guidelines.

"Smog-forming pollutants come from many sources such as automobile exhaust, power plants, factories and many consumer products..." per Larry West, About.com's guide to Environmental Issues. "Smog can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reduced resistance to colds and lung infections. The ozone in smog also inhibits plant growth and can cause widespread damage to crops and forests."

PROS of Obama Killing Higher EPA Smog Standards
Even by EPA estimates, corporate compliance with proposed new smog standards would cost industry between $19 billion to $90 billion annually by 2020.

House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) remarked about new EPA smog regs, "This effective ban or restriction on construction and industrial growth for much of America is possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama administration regulations," adding that it would cost "millions of jobs over the next decade."

These stringent new air-quality rules would come at a terrible time for the flailing U.S. economy, which remains mired in recession and stalled with a 9.1 percent national unemployment rate. Most economists agree that the U.S. could emerge more quickly from economic doldrums if corporations invested first in new hiring, rather in regulatory compliance.

The Obama administration is also anxious to actively support revival of U.S. manufacturing, and its own "Make It in America" Agenda, first announced a year ago. Stricter air pollution standards would undoubtedly slow that hoped-for manufacturing revival.

CONS of Obama Killing Higher EPA Smog Standards
"The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health," protested Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters about President Obama's slapping down of higher national smog standards.

Sierra Club President Michael Brune observed, "By putting the interest of coal and oil polluters first, the White House seems to be saying that 'clean air will have to wait'... the millions of Americans who have suffered through orange and red-alert air quality days this record-breaking summer will continue to push the Obama Administration to improve this protection in order to save lives and clean up our air."

American Lung Association President Charles Connor commented, "For two years the Administration dragged its feet by delaying its decision, unnecessarily putting lives at risk. Its final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of Americans, which is inexcusable."

What's Next?
In his September 2, 2011 statement, President Obama said "Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013."

Bottom line: higher EPA smog standards are dead until after the 2012 presidential and 2012 Congressional elections.

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