Obama delays ozone rules again; industry cheers, enviros jeer

The Obama administration is shelving plans to tighten federal limits for ozone, a lung-irritating pollutant that has fouled Houston’s air for decades.

Today’s decisions comes amid complaints from industry and business groups who say the new ozone, or smog, limit could be the most expensive environmental rule in U.S. history.

President Obama said in a statement that he asked the Environmental Protection Agency to wait until 2013 for the regularly scheduled review of the ozone limit before finalizing it. The federal agency already had delayed a final decision four times in the past year.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, praised the move.

“The president’s decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement. “EPA’s proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority.”

The American Chemistry Council said the decision “… will ensure that communities across the country that would have essentially been closed for business by the new standard have a fighting chance of attracting new factories, new construction projects and new energy production.”

The EPA estimates that complying with the new limits would cost $19 billion to $90 billion a year but says those costs would be offset by the benefits to public health.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club condemned the administration’s decision, saying exposure to ozone is “like getting a sunburn on your lungs.”

“By putting the interest of coal and oil polluters first, the White House seems to be saying that ‘clean air will have to wait,’” Brune said.

Smog is created when sunlight cooks a mixture of chemicals emitted mostly by vehicles, industrial plants and refineries. Ozone is the main ingredient of smog, and chronic exposure has been linked to asthma attacks, chest pain and premature death.

The Center for American Progress called the decision “deeply disappointing” and said it “grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.”

“A new standard for smog would save 4,300 lives and prevent 7,000 hospital visits and tens of thousands of cases of asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses each year,” the group said.

The proposed smog level would be 60 to 70 parts ozone per billion parts air, down from 75 parts per billion, as established by the Bush administration in 2008. The EPA says the more stringent standard reflects scientific studies showing that ozone poses greater health risks than previously thought.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said she thinks the 2008 smog limit is not legally defensible, given the scientific evidence of the widespread pollutant’s effect on public health. The agency said it intends to finalize the new limit “shortly.”

The 2008 decision went against the recommendation of an EPA-appointed panel of science advisers. The panel said the ozone limit should be no higher than 70 parts per billion and perhaps as low as 60.

Jeff Holmstead, the former head of EPA’s Air Pollution Office and now head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell & Giuliani said the president’s decision wasn’t a surprise — just the fact that he issued a release on the decision himself taking credit for it. 

“I expected that EPA would quietly withdraw the ozone rule without any fanfare,” Holmstead said in a statement. ”The political folks at the White House must believe that the President needs to show that he is concerned about too much regulation from EPA.”

Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners noted that in his announcement on the delay the President cited other programs he intends to keep — such as increased fuel economy standards and new maximum achievable control technology standard for the electric utility industry — but he does not mention the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that Texas officials say could endanger the state’s power grid reliability.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s announcement on the ozone rules shortly after his does mention the Cross-State rule, Book notes.

“But she is not the President. We would encourage clients to watch this space and reiterate that we believe that CSAPR is less than 50% likely to go into effect in its current form on 1/1/2012,” Book writes.

matthew.tresaugue@chron.com

18 Comments

  1. David

    Are these the same rules that Ercot is saying will cause blackouts? Sounds like it.

    The EPA sure is delaying a lot of stuff until 2013. Is there anything significant about 2013? I can’t think of anything. It follows 2012. Is there anything significant happening in 2012? I can’t think of anything. Can anyone thing of anything?

    #1
  2. LiveSimply

    Uh OH! Here he goes dissing off the liberals again! Oh wait…..I forget. Anything he does is just hunky dorry with the libs! It’s when the conservatives do things like this that the libs get all up in raging storm of blaming Bush for the ills of whatever!

    #2
  3. lab-handler

    He was wrong in the first place, but when it is n_t cutting time, votes mean more than his integrity (or lack thereof)

    #3
  4. Fred

    David said: “Are these the same rules that Ercot is saying will cause blackouts? Sounds like it.”

    In fact, they are not the same rules. The Ozone NAAQS is not the same as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule. The CSAPR deals with Oxides of Nitrogen and Oxides of Sulfur, not Ozone.

    #4
  5. Zippy_Slug

    wow.. could it be a liberal finally realizing that government oversight and regulation stifles business and hurts consumers? I doubt this learning experience will last long..

    #5
  6. James R. Maxwell

    Sit down and shut up, you elected bozo to help destroy our nation. He made it plain in one of his speeches that he would destroy the power
    producers and raise rates so high that no one could afford them. But have to admit he did not say he would have the nation unemployed.
    Those that voted for obama for the “Hype & Chain” have gotten their wish
    fufilled in spades. So far the only thing that obama has accomplished is a useless and expensive health care boondogle that will cost lives and not provide any medical service to American, the destruction of Doctors as a business, massive bail outs for his cohorts on Wall Street and the Banks, He has forgive debts to his Muslim brothers over in Egypt while our economy is spirling down hill. So between Obama and the Socialist liberals who control the democrat party they had place our nation at risk of being insolvent for the first time ever.

    #6
  7. Mark from Louisiana

    What the liberal media didn’t tell you about this story.

    Update: On Tuesday, Doug Powers noted that House GOP John Boehner sent the White House a letter flagging massively expensive, proposed EPA smog regs.

    Today, the White House rejected the controversial ozone regs.

    He caved in the Boehner again….ha ha ha ha ha
    He doesn’t have big enough attachments to play in washington.

    #7
  8. evefromeden

    When dead people vote him in, he will do what he wants to the americans he hates and his wife is so ashamed of. He’ll say I WON. It’ll be him and the stepford peons controlled thru hypnotism behind closed doors again passing laws that make themselves rich.

    #8
  9. GAPlatt

    Fred, that’s correct but don’t forget that we still have the final rules for the power plant mercury and water intake (aka 316b) regulations to look forward to in 2011. Lowering the ozone NAAQS might be scientifically supported, but it’s hard to justify in this economy. TCEQ showed that if EPA went to 60 ppb then almost every Texas county with a monitor would be non-attainment. As for the CSAPR, I agree that the dirty lignite plants need to clean up their act, but the CSAPR’s timetable is laughable.

    #9
  10. KB

    “The Obama administration is shelving plans to tighten federal limits for ozone….”
    ————–
    Obama musta got his check from the industry yesterday.

    #10
  11. luckyone

    Obama and his regime can’t afford to kill any more jobs right now. He’s worried about his job. If he is re-elected there will be nothing to stop the total destruction of the country by this man.

    #11
  12. PaleRider

    Don’t be fooled – Obama’s death grip stranglehold on industry runs to his core. This example of his ruinous war on capitalism is a fraction of his plans in his 2nd term when he can “focus like a laser beam” on this without concern for re-election.

    Fire Obama 2012!

    #12
  13. buttercup65

    This Green Weenie cannot make a decision and stick to it. Either he believes in what he is doing or he does not.

    Of course this this yet another Political move on his part to try and not loose any more votes. Yes implementing these stupid laws will cause Untion layoffs..

    Are you Liberal Union folks ready for the impact?
    Eat your heart out you idiots…you put him in office..take the physo out.

    #13
  14. Bobo Jones

    This was nothing more than a political decision by the Obama Regime. Plus it would have made the economy even worse. We have 20% U6 unemployment, and more government control is at its tipping point.
    .
    In the future, oversight and regulations should have a combination of industry and government overseers. Because it is obvious that government, especially leftist government, is totally ruining the country.
    .
    I hope that liberals realize that a successful pension plan relies on successful economy and stock market. That requires long term planning by businesses and corporations, which at this point is like the Titanic trying to avoid an iceberg. And Obama is the iceberg.

    #14
  15. Tedde

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I’ll just have to hold my breath until 2013.

    #15
  16. Steve Knis

    The EPA estimates that complying with the new limits would cost $19 billion to $90 billion a year but says those costs would be offset by the benefits to public health

    They talk about these rules in a vacuum. They don’t mention other EPA air rules, state air rules, water rules, waste rules. Each of those multiply the cost of operating a production facility. Eventually no one is able to figure out who needs to do what to comply with all the rules in only one facility.

    Higher costs must be passed on to the consumer (you) until you cannot pay for the product. The plant either shuts down or moves or we (us all) start buying from other countries that do not have the same restrictions. BY the way, our clean air mixes with their dirty air (more generated with more sales) and there is no bottom line benefit.

    EPA has been doing this for 40 years ! So it is not a recent administration decision.

    Voice of experience !.

    #16
  17. MikeTx

    Well..I’ll just wait for the REPUBLICANS to take over.They want to abolish the EPA .. Then we will all wear protective masks to work. It works for China !

    #17
  18. Bill in Houston

    Keep dreaming, Mike.

    Yes, the EPA needs to go. That does NOT mean we eeeeevil Republicans want dirty air or water. You leftists with these inane slippery slope arguments are pathetic.

    #18