Weigh in on the question “Is President Obama a Lost Cause Environmentally — and What Should Progressives Do?“
UPDATE 1: Obama’s decision to do nothing on ozone pollution is actually worse than what the Bush-Cheney Administration proposed. See Brad Plumer’s WashPost piece, “Did the White House double-cross its supporters on the smog rule?”
UPDATE 2: I was on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown tonight on this and will post a video when it’s available.
That’s a tweet from Politico’s national political reporter Manu Raju.
After much debate about upcoming EPA regulation of air quality standards, the President has backed down on creating a new ozone standard:
[A]fter careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time. Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013. Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski issued the following statement:
“The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health.”
The administration’s fecklessness is no doubt based on some crass political (mis)calculation. But in fact the standard would not have any noticeable negative impact on the economy and, if anything, would have driven investment and innovation even in the short term. The biggest uncertainty businesses have now is “what the heck will Obama do next?” since the President appears to have no coherent and consistent philosophy guiding his economic and environmental decisions.
And as for how this plays out with the voters, it’s one more move that disempowers a core constituency. It also misses a chance to win over the biggest block of independent voters, those who want to preserve clean air and clean water for their kids. As a May Pew poll found, 71% of Americans say “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”
UPDATE: Below is the Center for American Progress statement on this decision, followed by the American Lung Association statement:
CAP: Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much needed —and long-overdue —ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and 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.
As history has shown and a recent CAP analysis has confirmed, the new ozone standard is unlikely to have much negative economic impact, but will save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in lower health care costs. Moreover, continuing to delay these standards that companies have already been planning for creates even more uncertainty during a volatile time. In reality, it is regulatory certainty that businesses need now to help create jobs.
It is unfortunate that the Obama administration ceded on such an important standard for public health based on updated science recommendations ignored by the Bush administration. The decision creates a clear blemish on an otherwise positive record of this administration in supporting initiatives that reduce pollution including the first fuel saving standards for trucks, higher fuel efficiency for cars built from 2017 to 2025 and proposed reductions in toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. The president must continue to fight and defeat efforts to block and weaken other clean air health safeguards.
Here is the American Lung Association:
President Obama announced today that he would not update the 2008 ozone standard.
“For two years the Administration dragged its feet by delaying its decision, unnecessarily putting lives at risk. Its final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of American, which is inexcusable,” said Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “The American Lung Association now intends to revive its participation in litigation with the Administration, which was suspended following numerous assurances that the Administration was going to complete this reconsideration and obey the law. We had gone to court because the Bush Administration failed to follow the law and set a protective health standard.”
“The ozone standard set in 1997 at 84 ppb is currently being implemented. The American Lung Association demands at minimum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states must move forward to implement the 75 ppb standard as it will provide more protection than the 14-year-old standard,” said Connor.
The EPA’s nearly two-year-long “reconsideration” of the ozone standard determined that the 2008 standard, set at 75 ppb by the Bush Administration, failed to protect public health, failed to follow the scientific community’s recommendations, and was legally indefensible. Furthermore, in reconsidering the 2008 decision, EPA had to limit its review to reconsider the science about ozone as it stood in 2006. Evidence accumulating since 2006 shows that ozone is harmful at levels well below the current.
By choosing to ignore the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the President is failing to follow the nation’s landmark air pollution law, the Clean Air Act, and therefore failing to protect public health, particularly those most at risk including children, older people, and people who suffer from chronic lung diseases. For these people, breathing smog-polluted air can lead to coughing and wheezing, restricted airways, hospitalization and even death. Even healthy young adults and people who exercise or work outdoors can suffer from high levels of ozone pollution.
“A new smog standard would have saved lives and resulted in fewer people getting sick,” said Albert A. Rizzo, MD, National Volunteer Chair of the American Lung Association and pulmonary and critical care physician in Newark, Delaware. “The Administration should have set a standard at 60 ppb as advised by the American Lung Association and other medical societies and health groups. Its failure to do so will severely jeopardize public health,” continued Dr. Rizzo.
An American Lung Association bipartisan poll of likely 2012 voters taken in June 2011 found that an overwhelming majority support the EPA’s efforts to strengthen rules on ozone-causing pollution. The poll found that 75 percent of voters support stricter limits on ozone and that 72 percent oppose efforts by Congress to stop EPA from updating ozone standards. The poll also found that 65 percent of the voters do not agree with the industry’s claim that the stricter smog standard will impact jobs. In fact, 54 percent rightly believe that a new standard will create jobs through innovation.
“The benefits to our economic and physical health of a stricter smog standard are without question,” continued Connor. “While polluters continue to argue against health standards by repeating archaic, long-disproved claims about economic harm, the American people know better. The Obama Administration undoubtedly should not have delayed and failed to implement a new standard to help communities achieve clean air.”