In a win for the business community, President Obama today asked the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw proposed standards that would have set stricter limits on emissions of ground level ozone, or smog.
"I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover," the president said in a statement. “With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that [EPA] Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time.”
The move comes three weeks after a coalition of 176 businesses and trade groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Obama asking him to force the EPA to scrap the proposal.
The groups cited private sector studies predicting the standards could result in as many as 7.3 million lost jobs and up to $1 trillion in compliance costs by 2020.
“A new ozone standard at this point in time would limit business expansion in nearly every populated region of the United States and impair the ability of U.S. companies to create new jobs,” the letter stated.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to reevaluate the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone every five years. The agency last did so in 2008 during the Bush Administration, and isn't required to revisit the issue until 2013.
Rather than waiting, the EPA proposed ground level ozone revisions in January 2010, announcing at the time that the "ozone standards set in 2008 were not as protective as recommended by EPA's panel of science advisors."
The revised standards would lower the current level of emissions from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range between 70 ppb and 60 ppb.
“Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013,” Obama said. “Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.”
The American Lung Association in public comments filed earlier this year with the EPA said that a more stringent ozone standard would save between 4,000 and 12,000 lives each year, prevent 58,000 asthma attacks, and 5,300 heart attacks.
Jackson in a statement touted the EPA's other accomplishments.
"This Administration has put in place some of the most important standards and safeguards for clean air in U.S. history: the most significant reduction of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide air pollution across state borders; a long-overdue proposal to finally cut mercury pollution from power plants; and the first-ever carbon pollution standards for cars and trucks," she said.