Smog over LA
The Obama-nixed regulations would have forced cities to reduce smog-creating emissions. Image: IK's World Trip/Flickr/CC BY

President Obama caved to the GOP Friday and killed the administration’s plans to tighten smog regulations. The president cited the slow economic recovery as his reason for the decision.

Obama rejects EPA proposition

The president rejected the proposed regulation for U.S. cities to reduce concentrations of ground-level ozone — the chief component in smog — that was supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and its independent panel of scientific advisers. The proposed regulation would have cost between $19 billion and $90 billion, depending on the the stringency of enforcement.

‘Reducing regulatory burdens’

The president said that, in this time of economic uncertainty, the regulatory restrictions would hamper economic growth.

“I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover,” President Obama said in a statement.

The decision came on the heels of a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics citing zero job growth in the month of August.

Pressure from GOP

Congressional Republicans have been pressuring the president to squash the proposed regulation and offered lukewarm praise over the decision.

House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said “It is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats’ agenda of tax hikes, more government stimulus spending, and increased regulations, which are all making it harder to create more American jobs.”

Industry chimes in

The petroleum and utility industries, which would have carried the brunt of restrictions under the proposed regulations, also offered support. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, called the decision “good news,” saying it would have impeded the administration’s priority to create jobs

“The pending ozone rule was just one part of a maze of overlapping and costly rules in store for American industry and most especially for the power sector,” said Electric Reliability Coordinating Council director Scott Segal.

Environmentalists condemn decision

Environmental groups were quick to lash back. David Hirsch, director of Friends of the Earth, said the decision would “mean more children suffering from asthma and more permanent lung damage for adults.”

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, accused the president of “caving in to big polluters” at the expense of  the public health.

The American Lung Association vowed to again pursue its lawsuit, originally filed against the George W. Bush administration, for endorsing weaker ground ozone limits on the grounds that it did not follow the advice of the EPA’s panel of scientific advisers. The organization withdrew its suit when the Obama administration earlier promised to adopt a higher standard.

Most recent capitulation to GOP

This is the latest capitulation made over the last year by the Obama administration under opposition from Congressional Republicans. In early August he agreed to more than $1 trillion in spending cuts as a concession for lowering the nation’s debt ceiling. In December he backed off on his position that the Bush-era tax cuts should not apply to the very wealthy.


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