Today’s decision of the Obama administration to withdraw new ozone rules is not only bad policy, it is also illegal. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to revisit its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every five years to ensure that they are adequate to protect the public health and safety. In 2006, the Bush Administration revisited the rules as required, but proposed a new standard of .75 P.P.M., which was far above the unanimous recommendations of the scientists who said somewhere between .60 and .70 P.P.M. was necessary to protect the public health. A lawsuit followed, and in response the Obama administration re-opened the rulemaking. This delayed a legal decision which most assuredly would have over-turned the 2008 final rules.
The Obama EPA proposed the more rigorous standards that could be supported by the science of 2006. In truth, new evidence suggests that the .60 to .70 limit itself may be too lenient, and that tens of thousands of people every year face premature deaths due to ozone.
Now, the Obama administration, noting that the standards will be revisited again in 2013, after the election, has withdrawn the rulemaking, in the name of regulatory relief.
By not following through with the new rules, the administration actually held back what surely would have been a successful lawsuit in 2008 (and one which will be re-instated). Moreover, the claim that Obama and the EPA are still protecting the public health is ludicrous. Real people will die from the failure to follow the law. Yes, there will be lawsuits and yes, eventually, the environmental groups will win because the law is clear, but in the meantime, many more people will have their health harmed and will die. Far from “regulatory relief,” if you can call killing people regulatory relief, the costs of these premature deaths far outweigh any direct costs to industry in order to comply with new rulemaking.
If the Obama administration or Members of Congress really want to impose higher costs on our economy in lower productivity to protect large corporations from lower costs to control dangerous pollution, if they are willing to make a policy decision to trade off lives of the young and vulnerable to enrich a smaller slice of the electorate (those who profit by not controlling their pollution), I suggest that they have an actual public policy debate about it in front of the American public. See who agrees that sacrificing health and lives of people who gain nothing from this pollution in order to lower costs for others is the American way.