Choking on Smog for Another Few Years

by Rena Steinzor

September 02, 2011

In perhaps the most troubling sign of his determination to pander to business at the expense of public health, President Obama announced this morning that he had blocked EPA’s science-based efforts to lower the levels of smog that drive children and the elderly inside on Code Red days. Automobile manufacturers, power plant operators, the oil industry, and the Chamber of Commerce are breaking out the champagne, while the public health community despairs of the President who promised so much and has delivered so little.

The hard truth is that in this case the President has decided to flout the Clean Air Act to precisely the same extent as his predecessor.

The Act established a panel of doctors and scientists, known as the Clean Air Act Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), a blue ribbon panel with impeccable credentials. The panel has pleaded with EPA to lower ozone to at least 70—and preferably 60—parts per billion in the air.  President Bush shoved aside these recommendations, setting a 75 ppb standard. President Obama has just ensured that this harmful level will persist for another several years.

The White House is spinning this as an effort to ease the burden on states and industry for the sake of the economy. In fact, it’s a cave-in to political pressure. No one should be fooled. As it turns out, "yes we can" has once again become "no, we daren’t."

Also from Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

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