Tags: Barack Obama | ozone | pollution | air quality

Obama, GOP Braced for Fight Over New 'Job-Killing' EPA Regs

Wednesday, 26 November 2014 01:11 PM

The Obama administration proposed tough new regulations on power plants and factories to control ozone pollution on Wednesday, a move set to spark a showdown between President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda and the incoming GOP-controlled Senate.

Three years ago, Obama pulled similar regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency shortly before they were due to be introduced, angering green groups which accused him of kowtowing to industry pressure to help him get re-elected, according to Politico reported.

The new EPA rules, while not as strict as environmental groups would have liked, will lower the amount of smog-creating ground-level ozone, a pollutant linked to illnesses such as asthma and heart attacks, to a level that the EPA considers healthy enough to breathe.

But the regulations are likely to mean that manufacturing and power plants would have to apply for costly new air pollution permits, which business groups say could have a detrimental effect on the economy and could be the costliest regulation of all time, Politico reported.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the proposals could save lives and bring cleaner air to millions of people, including Los Angeles and other parts of California.

"The standard today doesn't provide the protection to which the public is entitled," said Janice Nolen, assistant vice president with the American Lung Association, a group that said the White House’s backtracking in 2011 was "inexcusable."

Nolen added, "They need to aim at the right target when making the reductions we need. (People) are breathing unhealthy air now in too many places. This decision will be a big test for the president."

But fueled by concerns among the oil industry, power companies and other industries, Republicans claim that a tighter ozone standard would damage the economy and send manufacturing jobs overseas, the Times says.

Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson maintains that the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard is healthy and that a lower ozone limit could lead to the loss of jobs, carpooling and even the end of barbecues in Texas, the Times reported.

Currently, the limit for ozone, the lung-damaging gas in smog, is 75 parts per billion. The new proposal is seeking a standard of 65 to 70 parts per billion.

Olson has introduced a bill to amend the landmark Clean Air Act that would encompass the effect that EPA rules have on jobs, while a similar proposal is in the Senate, according to the Times.

The act bars the EPA from taking into account the costs involved in sticking to pollution standards, such as the loss of industry jobs, which was upheld by the Supreme Court and led to a court order calling on the government to issue new pollutions proposals by next week.

"The law as it stands now says [the EPA] can't look at jobs," Olson told the Times. "But if you don't have jobs, you don't have healthcare, and that is a public health issue."

Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter says that tightening the ozone standard "will shut down job-creating projects in every state," while South Dakota GOP Sen. John Thune has introduced legislation that would force EPA to postpone the action, according to Politico.

"I expect there to be strong, bipartisan opposition to what will be the most expensive EPA regulation in history," Thune said on Monday, adding that a lower ozone limit would "have a devastating impact on American jobs and energy prices."

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the EPA’s proposal will "stifle job creation for decades," and promised that it would "face rigorous oversight" from the new GOP-run Congress.

Even leading Democrats are concerned about the new standards, including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who wrote to Obama last week urging him to back down on pushing the EPA rules, saying, "The growth of our economy is dependent on it."

Ozone is created when gases are released during combustion, either in power plants, factories or in vehicle engines. The pollutants react with sunlight to create ozone, which can cause asthma attacks, heart and lung damage, early death, the Times noted.

The EPA will be listening to public comments on the proposed standards in the next few months, but plans to have new regulations in place by October.

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The Obama administration proposed tough new regulations on power plants and factories to control ozone pollution on Wednesday, a move set to spark a showdown between the president and the incoming GOP-controlled Senate.
ozone, pollution, air quality
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 01:11 PM
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